When Kentucky state Rep. Adam Koenig exited office at the start of the year, it created a vacuum around the effort to legalizing sports betting in the state. Koenig had sponsored the bill for years and very nearly got the bill passed in 2022.
Yet, here we are in 2023 and the groundwork finally paid off, as the state Senate passed the sports betting bill on the final day of the legislation. Gov. Andy Beshear is expected to sign it early Friday morning.
New sports betting sponsor has rural Kentucky roots
When it came to deciding who would pick up the effort in his stead, multiple people were eager to take up the cause. In the end, it fell to Rep. Michael Meredith, who had been a co-sponsor of Koenig’s efforts for many years.
“There were two or three of us who had been consistent co-sponsors of the bill,” Meredith told SBC Americas shortly after the state Senate passed the legislation. “And we kind of thought what if we took somebody that was from a rural area that supported this issue and just change the narrative a little bit?”
While Koenig, who hails from the more urban parts of Northern Kentucky, focused his argument on the new opportunities this industry could bring, Meredith, a Western Kentucky native, focused instead on bringing something that was already happening in the shadows out into the open.
Meredith may have taken his own approach to get the measure signed into law, but he was very quick to credit his predecessor for helping move the proverbial ball down the field.
Meredith picked up where Koenig left off
“Listen, I wouldn’t have got this done without him, the foundation and the groundwork that he laid over the last four or five years. I was his co-sponsor, and it was unfortunate that he didn’t get to come back and do this himself, but I was his passenger and just got to step into the driver’s seat when he didn’t get to come back to be with us. I’ve been communicating with him today. This is as big a win for him as it is for me.”
Koenig was equally willing to credit Meredith as well as Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer for their work this year.
“Just happy that it got passed and that there are a lot of people who enjoy some more freedom, Koenig told SBC Americas. Rep. Meredith and Sen. Thayer did a tremendous job getting it across the line.”
It did come down to the wire, but in the end, the bill managed to generate a couple extra above the 23 votes they needed despite Thayer telling media Wednesday that they were still a vote short. Meredith admitted that even he was surprised at some of the people that ultimately supported the effort.
Sports betting the rare Kentucky issue with bipartisan support
What is also surprising about this bill was that, in a session in which there was quite a bit of division between the minority group of Democrats and the Republican supermajority, this bill was something Meredith said was truly a bipartisan effort and one that benefited from the support of Beshear.
“They”[Beshear’s staff] were willing partners with us through the entire process. He was helpful. Staff was helpful. You know, we would not have gotten the bill out of the House without the efforts of the House Democratic leadership, along with the House Republican leadership,” Meredith said. “It really has been a true team effort and same over here. There’s probably not a bill this session that was really more bipartisan than this bill. And I think it’s a success story of what we can all do when we work together.”