LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Attorney Wade Yeoman makes the short drive about once a week over the Ohio River from his Louisville office to Jeffersonville, Ind., where he grabs lunch or a coffee and uses his phone to place small bets on sports.
He’s one of many Kentuckians traveling across state lines to do so because Kentucky is one of 14 states that doesn’t allow the practice.
“While I’m standing there waiting for them to pour my coffee, I pull up Draft Kings,” he said.
It makes watching the games more interesting, said Yeoman, and yes, the quick trip feels pretty silly to him.
“It’s absurd and the reason I find it absurd is the perfect example is: I work in downtown Louisville and I could have either driven across the river and come and placed a sports bet or I could have driven on 65 the same distance and gone to Churchill Downs and bet on horse racing, which is legal in Kentucky,” he said.
Yeoman uses the apps Draft Kings and FanDuel and considers himself a casual bettor.
He knows 30 to 40 people who do the same thing; he said.
“It’s not like we coordinate and come over here together, but you know, I have many friends from grad school and undergrad where they talk about, ‘Oh yeah, I come over on Monday’ or ‘I come over on Tuesday,’ ... or a lot of people during football season come over on Friday before all the games start,” said Yeoman.
Every state surrounding Kentucky except Missouri allows the practice, according to the American Gaming Association.
Rep. Al Gentry (D-Louisville) said he has been trying to get sports betting legalized since 2018.
“People are literally going across the border, parking, making their wagers on a telephone and those tax revenues are going out of this state to other states,” said Gentry.
He co-sponsored House Bill 606 with former Rep. Adam Koenig last year.
The measure passed the House over the objections of some Republicans, like Rep. Josh Calloway (R- Irvington).
“We have in our society today an amazing self-control issue and that’s what concerns me about this particular bill,” Calloway said in March 2022.
The bill never made it to a floor vote in the Senate.
Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) said leaders kept it alive by giving it readings.
“It never created any type of groundswell of support,” he said last April.
Gentry plans to co-sponsor a new bipartisan bill to be filed next month and believes it has the votes to pass.
“It will legalize sports betting and in much the same fashion as before, which would be administered by the horse racing commission and would generate, we believe, in north of $20 million a year for the state in tax revenues,” he said.
Yeoman called on lawmakers to put the next bill up for a vote.
“Don’t make us hop in our cars and drive across the river to place a bet,” he said. “It’s just absurd.”
But with more games scheduled, like the Super Bowl, Yeoman plans to make the same trip back, across the river.