House approves bipartisan bill to legalize sports betting
FRANKFORT — Kentucky is one step closer to legalizing sports wagering.
The Kentucky House of Representatives approved House Bill 551 on Monday. The bill’s primary co-sponsor, Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Oakland, said the legislation would legalize, regulate and tax sports wagering in the Commonwealth.
“This does create a regulated marketplace for sports wagering — taking sports wagering in Kentucky out of the shadows, out of the darkness, and into the light,” Meredith said.
The House also amended the bill to establish a problem gambling assistance fund, which would promote public awareness of gambling addiction and help pay for addiction treatment. The bill’s other primary co-sponsor, Rep. Al Gentry, D-Louisville, had filed separate legislation on that issue.
Meredith said Monday’s amended version of the bill would dedicate 2.5% of the tax revenue from sports wagering to the fund. Limited to $50,000 per fiscal year, the fund would be administered by the Division of Behavioral Health of the Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities.
Additionally, HB 551 would
- direct the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to oversee and regulate the sports wagering,
- permit only licensed tracks to obtain a sports wagering license through the commission,
- prohibit sports wagering for anyone under the age of 18,
- prohibit a person who is participating in a sporting event either as a player, coach, official or owner of a team from placing a wager on a game or event they’re associated with,
- establish criminal penalties for violators,
- and establish a 9.75% tax on revenue at tracks and a 14.25% tax on revenue from online wagers.
In the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee last week, Meredith and Gentry said the state would make an estimated $23 million annually off sports wagering. After the problem gaming assistance fund costs and administrative costs have been appropriated, the remaining revenue would be deposited into the permanent pension fund, they said.
Rep. Josh Calloway, R-Irvington, attempted to pass two amendments to prohibit credit cards from being used and raise the legal age from 18 to 21 on the House floor. Both amendments failed.
Calloway said he is against the bill, but if it is going to become legal, he wanted to do what he can to protect children and gambling addicts.
“I will never, ever, ever stop fighting for Kentuckians and fighting things that have the ability to destroy people’s lives. I firmly believe that this is one of them,” Calloway said.
HB 551 cleared the House floor by a 63-34 vote.
In explaining his “no” vote, Rep. Chris Fugate, R-Chavies, said HB 551 is “not good for Kentucky.”
“I really hope and pray we get to see some legislation that will bring jobs into East Kentucky and to the rural parts of the state,” he added.
In explaining his “yes” vote, Gentry said this bill would establish the state’s first problem gambling assistance fund and give Kentuckians what they want.
HB 551 will now go before the Senate for consideration.