FLORENCE, Ky. – The sponsor of Kentucky's latest sports betting bill said he’s confident the bill will get the votes it needs to pass into law. The bill would allow Kentucky's horse racing tracks to be licensed as sports betting facilities.

What You Need To Know

  •  A Kentucky bill would allow racetracks to operate as sports betting faciliites

  •  The bill passed through a committte this week

  •  Its sponsor says he thinks it has a good chance to make it through the House and enate

  • Turfway Park Racing and Gaming will "keep an eye" on the bill

Since Turfway Park Racing and Gaming opened in Florence, it’s been an escape for people like Kurt Simpson to try their hand at the many historical racing machines available, or bet on some horse races at the park’s mile-long thoroughbred racetrack.

“On a quick lunch break, I can pop in, grab some food, make a couple wagers, try out my luck. It’s a good time,” Simpson said.

One thing Simpson can’t bet on, though, is sports. Not unless he takes a trip over to Ohio or Indiana, as Kentucky remains one of 17 states where sports betting is illegal.

To Simpson, that’s a bummer.

“I’m a sports bettor myself. And I’ve got looped into some of those, let’s just call it fraudulent sites, where you might lose money, so I’ve been a victim of that. So it would make me feel a lot more comfortable if I could do it close to home, as opposed to driving across the river,” he said. “I feel like we’re always kind of one step behind when it comes to innovation. Especially on this front, from a gambling perspective.”

House Bill 551 passed the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee Wednesday morning. The bill would allow race tracks like Turfway to operate as sports betting facilities and allow for online betting.

Turfway Park Racing and Gaming Senior Director of Marketing Gary Pecorello said Turfway, which is owned by Churchill Downs, is paying attention.

“When we see that kind of information come out, certainly we keep an eye on it,” Pecorello said. “And we have internal discussions about the potential, and the possibility, and the hope that sports wagering comes to realization here in the commonwealth of Kentucky. When we built this property, we had our fingers crossed, and anticipated and hoped that realization would come to fruition,” he added.

While previous bills have failed, the sponsor of this one, Rep. Michael Meredith (R-Oakland), said he thinks it’s got a good chance to get the votes it needs in the house and the senate. He also projected Kentucky sports betting could generate $23 million in tax revenue annually.

Brent Evans, another Turfway guest who also said he likes to bet, said he doesn’t see the downside to legalizing sports gambling.

“I don’t think there’s any reason for it not to happen at this point,” he said.

“You can drive from here, 20 minutes over to Indiana, to place a bet. And any state where it’s not legal, there’s going to be bookies. If a person wants to bet, they’re going to bet, so you might as well have it be a benefit for the state,” Evans said.

The Ohio Casino Control Commission reported $208.9 million in tax revenue from sports betting in January, after it became legal in Ohio or the first time this year.

Meredith said for Kentucky lawmakers who remain opposed, it’s a moral issue. A common concern is the potential influence on children.

Meredith said he expects the bill to be heard on the House floor early next week.