FRANKFURT, Kent (AP) — Legislation to legalize sports betting in Kentucky passed the House of Representatives on Monday, sparking a major Senate debate over a controversial proposal by a majority of Senate Republicans.
Previous efforts to legalize sports betting in the Bluegrass State won support in the House of Representatives but failed in the Senate. It reflects how controversial gambling is where Churchill goes down in Louisville, home of the Kentucky Derby.
"It will bring sports betting out of the shadows, out of the dark and into the light in Kentucky, and create a regulated market for sports betting," said Republican Rep. Michael Meredith, the bill's lead sponsor.
The measure passed the House by a vote of 63 to 34, but its prospects in the Senate are uncertain because supporters have faced major procedural hurdles this year. It requires a three-fifths vote in each house to pass because it is a law that raises revenue in odd years.
Opponents dug in for the upcoming Senate showdown. After the House vote, the Family Foundation said the sports betting bill "represents the expansion of highly predatory gambling at a time when Kentuckians are least able to afford it."
A key sponsor of the bill, Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, said Monday it would be "difficult" to reach that high level in the Senate.
But first I want to try to get him off the committee.
After years of decline, supporters say it's time for Kentucky to accept betting in most of Kentucky's neighboring states.
You have to cross a land line or river to participate in their programs. Meredith said.
Opponents of the bill say state-sanctioned sports betting creates more social problems than harming families. "This is not a law that Kentucky can be proud of," said Republican Representative Chris Fugate.
"It's not good for Kentucky," he said. "It's not good for families. It's not good for people. And I really hope and pray that we'll see legislation that creates jobs in eastern Kentucky and rural areas of this state."
If legalized, sports betting in Kentucky would generate $23 million in tax revenue annually, Meredith said.
House Bill 551 would allow Kentucky racetracks to be licensed as sportsbooks with an initial fee of $500,000 and an annual renewal fee of $50,000. Participating Rink may contract with three service providers to provide sports betting services through the Rink or online websites and mobile applications. Carriers are required to pay an initial fee of $50,000 along with an annual renewal fee of $10,000.
Under the bill, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission would regulate sports betting. The revenue from paying these rates covers these regulatory costs. A percentage of the proceeds goes to the gambling fund. Then the rest of the income goes into the state pension system.