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Sports betting bill gains momentum by clearing House panel

Photo courtesy: MGN
Photo courtesy: MGN(KKTV)
Published: Jan. 15, 2020 at 11:40 AM EST
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A bill to legalize sports betting in Kentucky has picked up bipartisan momentum.

A House committee voted unanimously Wednesday to advance the measure. One estimate says the proposal would bring in about $22.5 million a year in new taxes.

The measure cleared the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee. The bill is supported by Gov. Andy Beshear, who mentioned it during his State of the Commonwealth speech Tuesday evening.

The proposal would allow wagering on college sports teams in Kentucky. That provision was excluded from a 2019 sports betting bill that died in the legislature.

"I think the outcome will be different this time. One, it's a revenue measure. We needed 60 votes in the House, 23 in the Senate, which we won't need this year," said Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger).

The new bill will need just 51 votes to pass the House and 20 to clear the Senate.

"To me it's a common sense bill. I can't think of any good reasons to not support this bill," said Rep. Al Gentry (D-Louisville).

Martin Cothran with The Family Foundation believes the bill is actually expanded gambling and requires voters to amend the state Constitution.

"A lot of it has to do with constitutional questions. There are more constitutional questions about this bill than other bills I've seen up here in a few years," said Cothran.

The Kentucky Racing Commission will oversee sports wagering and bets could be made at tracks, the Kentucky Speedway and through online avenues.

"This bill is not going to solve our challenges, we know that. But it is a good first step. It's a step toward creating revenue," said Gentry.

The bill's sponsor said some of the money generated by wagering would go towards the unfunded pension liability and the Kentucky Thoroughbred development fund.

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