After breezing through committee, the Kentucky sports betting bill cleared the House on Monday with relatively few hurdles. The bill, HB551, now moves to the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee, where it could potentially get a hearing as soon as tomorrow.
Sports betting bill now includes problem gambling funding
One new addition to the bill is an allotment for problem gambling treatment. HB551’s sponsor, Rep. Michael Meredith, previously said he wanted to address that issue in a subsequent session. He conceded this change helped the bill’s chances in the Senate, though he still wants to make sure the onus is on horse racing, Kentucky Lottery, and sports betting to address responsible gambling collectively.
“We’re pretty close over there,” Meredith told SBC Americas about the bill’s Senate prospects. “Yeah. “Couple, one, two, three votes, somewhere in that range. The problem gaming money was something that was asked for by one or two of those votes over there. So hopefully, that’ll shore up those.”
“I think Rep. [Matthew] Koch and I will come back and revisit that issue next year in discussion with the tracks, the lottery, and the other sources of wagering in the state. But some of the senators wanted to just get it started here, so that’s what we chose to do.”
The measure would take 2.5% of tax revenue from sports betting to fund problem gambling support efforts. The fiscal note on the bill estimates $22.9 million in revenue annually for the state.
Meredith’s bill would allow for up to nine online sports betting licenses, one for each of the state racetracks. Those licenses would come at a $500,000 fee. Retail sports betting would be taxed at 14.25% while online betting would go at a 9.75% rate. The bill would not allow for promotional credit deductions by operators.
Meredith open to working with Beshear to pass sports betting
Last year, Rep. Adam Koenig’s sports betting bill also made it to the Senate but failed to ever get called for a floor vote in the Senate because a majority of GOP senators did not support the bill. Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, has voiced his support for sports betting. When asked if he would be willing to seek support from Beshear to help rally votes from the seven Democratic senators, Meredith was open to it.
“I am absolutely always happy to have help from the governor if we can agree on something. And we’ve been communicating a little bit over the last week anyway about this vote that was had today and about already planning for the vote in the Senate.”
The Senate vote is more difficult than some realize. During odd-numbered years, any bill that adds revenue to the state needs to pass the Senate by a three-fifths majority. That amounts to 23 votes. The Senate is currently split with 31 Republicans and seven Democrats. The bill passed in the House three votes over the necessary 60-vote threshold.
21+ and credit card amendments both failed
Anti-gambling Rep. Josh Calloway did attempt to attach some amendments to the legislation this evening. One amendment sought to raise the sports betting age to 21. Meredith argued that, with every other form of gambling age-gated to 18 years old, it would be inconsistent to treat sports betting differently. The amendment failed a voice vote.
Calloway’s other amendment sought to ban credit card deposits. Meredith also opposed this, noting potential cybersecurity issues with ACH deposits.
“I’m a banker by trade, as most of you in this body know. I’m always very reluctant to have an ACH tied directly to my bank account for something that is accessed on the internet,” he said.
That amendment went to a roll call vote, where it was defeated as well.