Frankfurt, Kentucky. (AP) — A bill legalizing sports betting in Kentucky received final passage through the legislature Thursday, clearing a final hurdle in the Senate after days of uncertainty about whether lenders will get enough support.
Hours before the end of this year's legislative session, the Republican-dominated Senate approved the measure 25-12 and sent it to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, a longtime supporter of the issue.
"We love our sport in the Commonwealth," Republican Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer said as he promoted the bill during debate. “People, like almost every state around us, want to be able to choose what they want to bet on in sports.”
The Democratic governor, who has championed sports betting during his tenure, welcomed the passage of the bill, saying in a social media post that "Kentuckians will soon be able to place their bets here for the first time." blue grass state.
The fate of the bill has become one of the biggest uncertainties as the 30-day legislative session draws to a close. Since it was a non-budget annual revenue bill, its supporters needed at least 23 votes to pass it. The Senate ultimately decided to allow residents of the state that hosts the Kentucky Derby to bet on other sports.
The bill would legalize, regulate and tax sports betting in Kentucky. Supporters estimate that it generates about $23 million in taxes and royalties annually. Thayer said he thought it was an understatement.
Opponents have called sports betting highly addictive gambling that could harm Kentucky families. Regarding the earnings estimate, Republican Senator Whitney Westerfield said during the debate: "Are you asking how much money the people of Kentucky have to lose before we get it?"
“There are going to be people who will suffer because of this,” Westerfield said. "There will be people who can't afford to gamble and will gamble anyway."
The bill would allow Kentucky trails to be licensed as sportsbooks for an initial payment of $500,000 and an annual renewal fee of $50,000.
Participating circuits can contract with three sports betting service providers at the circuit itself or through online websites and mobile applications. Service providers must pay $50,000 for the initial license and $10,000 per year for renewal.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission regulated sports betting operations.
Tax revenue from these fees will cover the cost of regulation. A percentage of the proceeds goes to an anti-gambling fund. The proceeds then go to the state pension system.
Thayer, a longtime supporter of legal sports betting, said he sees it as a continuation of "our century-old tradition of betting on horse racing."
“This is a great day for the Commonwealth and its peoples,” he said. "Freedom won."