Kentucky has approved a streamlined state budget, but legal sports betting isn’t included as part of it.
House Bill 137 has actually had a lot of support in the Bluegrass State but was ultimately put on hold for the time being. The budget had to be rushed through as part of a shorter legislative session, which was reduced by 10 days due to COVID-19.
The budget was passed by the Senate unanimously on Wednesday, with 34 votes for and zero against. After that, the House voted 80-10 in its favor. Governor Andy Beshear must now sign it to complete the process.
Sports betting had a lot of support within the state
Had HB137 come into law, regulated sports wagering could have generated between $22 million and $25 million in extra annual revenue. That was according to bill endorsers, as reported in an Associated Press article in February.
Beshar has made his support for the bill clear in the past, as have various other state politicians – both Democrats and Republicans. According to Louisville Business First, the legislation had around 40 sponsors as of February 18th, 2020.
Republican Adam Koenig has spoken in support of allowing players to wager on sporting events. He argued that Kentuckians will just go to bet elsewhere since a growing number of states are legalizing the vertical.
He said that he was “tired of trailing other states”, while also adding that “it’s time that we get into this game and we make sure that we are keeping these dollars at home”.
Not your normal budget
In an ordinary year, a two-year budget would have been passed – lasting until June 2022. But a one-year version was put in place this time around, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
And while a new vaping tax made the cut, sports betting did not. Also dropped from the budget was an increase in funding for education, plus pay raises for teachers and state employees.
Nearby states have already regulated sports betting
Indiana and West Virginia, both of which border Kentucky, have launched online sports betting. For the 2020 SuperBowl, Beshar posted a tweet saying that bettors were crossing into Indiana to bet on the NFL season finale.
It was revealed that bettors in Indiana wagered $11.6 million on the SuperBowl, contributing to its best-ever month for sports betting handle. $187.2 million was placed in total, which was a 9.6% increase compared to January.
In the south, Tennessee has also passed a bill for online sports betting. It’s expected that this will be implemented at some stage this year. Illinois, meanwhile, has also taken its first land-based bet for this vertical.
The chance to go again next year?
Had the budget been a two-year one, it might have been easier for sports betting to be passed. This is because the session is longer, while all such legislation would need is an approval of the majority.
Comparatively, next year’s session will only be 30 days long. The bill will also require three-fifths of votes – a.k.a. 60 out of 100 – to be passed.
In the eyes of Koenig, getting the necessary number of votes won’t be too troubling. He also thinks that the change in office personnel could help.
“I can think of four members of the House Republican Caucus, some who are actively fighting it, who are retiring.
“One may be replaced by a Democrat, the other three by Republicans but a few of those people running are younger and may be yes votes on it.”