FRANKFORT, Ky. — Lawmakers filed a series of pro-gambling bills Monday, including a measure to legalize sports betting.
The package includes another attempt from Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger) to legalize sports betting.
“We can either bury our heads in the sand and tell people that they’re not grown adults and they can’t make these decisions, or, like I've said, we give them the opportunity to do so,” Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger) said. “We tax it, we regulate it, and we make sure it’s done above-board and get people the protections from their government that they deserve.”
Koenig said Kentuckians support sports betting, every neighboring state aside from Missouri already has it, and Kentucky is missing out on about $20 million in revenue per year from it.
Koenig has filed similar bills every year since 2019, but they never went past a committee vote.
“I come from Northern Kentucky, where it’s a no-brainer, so I don’t know that I’m surprised. My constituents are surprised, and I think people in other parts of the state, they have a different constituency, so I respect that,” Koenig said. “I get only one vote, just like the other 99 House members, so I have to do a better job persuading.”
A second bill overhauls the tax rates for horse race betting: it increases the tax rate for online bets so it’s on par with the rate you’d pay on bets at the track, and the tax on simulcast wagers would be brought down so all of it evens out to 1.5%.
Koenig said the moves will generate an extra $4 million per year for the state.
The measure does not raise the rate on historical horse racing machines, something that was hotly debated last year as lawmakers voted to make sure the machines stayed legal.
Koenig said the current rate for HHR machines, also 1.5%, is a fair rate
“I think it's in a good spot,” he said. “And I think the important part from that discussion was that we generate more revenue, and we’re doing that.”
The third bill goes after so-called “gray” machines, which are slot machines that operators say fall under a gray area of the law, but the bill would make them illegal like most other forms of gambling.
“Asking for forgiveness instead of permission is something that we don’t like from a policy standpoint,” Rep. Killian Timoney (R-Lexington) said. “And we want to make sure we send that message to any industry that wants to come here to have access to our citizens that they need to follow the process.”
The fourth bill creates a state-funded program to help gambling addicts.
There’s no timeline yet for how quickly lawmakers will act on these bills, and Koenig even said he’s not sure how confident he is that sports betting will pass this year.