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Kentucky Sports Betting

Editor’s note: As of Jan. 18, 2021

For the past three years, lawmakers in Kentucky have been trying to pry open the door to legalized sports betting with no success.

But optimism wass high a bill will see approval in 2020 but due to the Coronavirus shutdown, time was limited and nothing came to pass. Support from new governor Andy Beshear, the former Democratic state Attorney General, plus multiple meetings between lawmakers and stakeholders led to hopes rising of positive news. A bill introduced to Rep. Adam Koenig had pretty much everything going for it but here we are in early 2021 and sports betting in the Bluegrass State is no closer to coming to fruition.

As neighboring states Indiana and West Virginia are seeing more money in their state coffers due to sports betting tax revenue and with Illinois and Tennessee poised to begin their wagering operations, Kentucky doesn’t want to be left out in the bluegrass.

Officials say the state is losing revenue daily with Kentuckians crossing state lines to bet elsewhere.

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Sports betting had 51 percent support in the 2019 session but it wasn’t enough. In odd years, the Kentucky legislature needs 60 percent approval for a measure, in even years, a simple majority will do so missing out in 2020 is a significant problem.

It doesn’t hurt that Gov. Andy Beshear, who had a pro-gambling plank in his run for governor, beat incumbent Matt Blevin in close race in November 2019 and has stated that he wants to open up the state with regards to preserving the important Horse Racing community but also adding sports gambling and casino revenues.

The sports betting bill that almost crossed the finish line last session was expected to generate $48 million in tax revenues but as more neighboring states come online that number could drop.

Another incentive for passage is earmarking sports betting revenues to the state’s public pension system that is estimated to be $39 billion short in funding.

Is sports betting currently legal in the state?

No, but 2021 may be the year a bill in the Kentucky legislature gains traction. It will happen surely but the question of when is very real.

What about betting on horse racing?

As Kentucky is the home of horse racing it is no surprise that all the major operators, TVG, Bet America, Twinspires, and AM Wager all operate in the state.

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