Expanded sports gambling in Kentucky dead, at least for now

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Legislation to legalize and regulate wagering on sporting events in Kentucky is dead for this session of the General Assembly but don’t expect the issue to go away, lawmakers say.


Proponents of the legislation are already looking ahead to the 2020 General Assembly when only a simple majority from both chambers is needed for passage. During the non-budget shorter sessions in odd-numbered years, it takes a 60 percent vote in both chambers.


Bill sponsor Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, told Insider Louisville on Tuesday a similar plan in next year’s session looks favorable.


“Nothing is really dead until midnight on the last day of session but needing a supermajority of votes was too high a bar to get in a short time period,” Koenig said.


House Speaker David Osborne on Wednesday night said the bill was dead for this session because they didn’t have the 60 votes necessary.


The gambling bill gained ground this session with 21 co-sponsors and bipartisan support. A study commissioned by Keeneland race track estimated a $20 million in new tax revenue that could go toward paying down the state’s grossly underfunded pension system.


However, opponents like Family Foundation say the cost on the lives of Kentucky families, which is the main target in expanded gambling, is steep and could lead to a corrupting influence on government. Gambling addiction leads to broken families, alcoholism, drug use and more, the organization said.


The money gained from sports wagering and medical marijuana wouldn’t come close to paying off the underfunded pension system, Gov. Matt Bevin has said, seemingly making that argument moot.


“Kentucky Baptists have fought to protect families from expanded gambling ploys for years,” said Curtis Woods, the co-interim executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “We rejoice that some legislators are unwilling to gamble away familial stability for potential economic gain. We will encourage our representatives to fight this cancerous proposal until the end.” 


While suffering another setback in this session, look for another run at it next year, Koenig said.


“We will regroup and reload with a better plan to win the hearts and minds of the public next year,” he said.

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