Kentucky lawmaker Adam Koenig is starting to wonder if maybe he rushed things. But really, all the stars seemed to be aligned to legalize sports wagering in Kentucky in early January, so he moved his HB 137 through the House Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations Committee with a unanimous vote, and figured that with the governor’s backing, the full House would vote on it sooner or later.
But three weeks later, his bill is still on the Orders of the Day, ready for a vote that hasn’t happened.
“Maybe I ran it out of committee too quickly, maybe not,” he told Sports Handle. “But we thought a strong vote out of committee would make it go easily.”
HB 137, which would legalize retail and statewide mobile, has 30 sponsors and the backing of the recently elected Gov. Andy Beshear, which means bipartisan support – Koenig is a Republican and Beshear is a Democrat.
More Republican support needed
It also has enough votes to get through the House. But politics isn’t always that simple. Both the House and Senate have a Republican majority, and leadership feels its needs more Republican commitments before calling for a vote.
“We have enough votes to get it through the House floor,” Koenig said. “We just need to get the balance a little closer.”
States surrounding KY — including IN, TN and WV, which are completely controlled by Republicans — have already passed sports betting
— KY Sports Betting Now (@SportsBettingKY) February 4, 2020
Koenig wouldn’t say how close he is to swaying peers, but it would seem he’d only need a handful (or less) of Republicans to support the bill before calling for a vote. And in any event, the bill was out of committee well before the Feb. 7 deadline, and can be acted on any time between now and April 15, when the General Assembly is set to adjourn. At issue, as is the case in many other states, is simply this – legalizing sports betting can be viewed as controversial, especially in Bible Belt states.
“This isn’t my first go ‘round, I’ve been here 14 years,” Koenig told WHAS11 last week. “I’ve had controversial bills on a regular basis and they’re hard and they take time and sometimes you get frustrated but it’s all worth it in the end when we get it passed.”
This year would seem the perfect year to legalize – it’s an even-numbered year, so only a simple majority is needed in each chamber, and unlike last year, sports betting has the governor’s support. In fact, Beshear singled out sports betting as a goal during his State of the Commonwealth address in January, and included revenue from sports betting in his budget, in which he promises increased funding for education and shrinking a massive pension deficit.
“A commitment to the future also requires that we create new revenue to meet the growing needs of our state,” Beshear said in his address. “Right now we are watching more than $500 million dollars in gaming revenue go across the border to states like Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois. It’s time to stop that flow. To use that money for our needs.
“Representative Adam Koenig has filed a sports betting bill. I fully support it, and we should pass it.”
Koenig made some key changes to the bill in the early going, taking out the college carveout and reaching a compromise on in-person registration for mobile sports betting. The bill now calls for an 18-month in-person registration period, similar to the new law in Iowa vs. the original open-ended requirement. Sports betting would be legal at horse racetracks and some professional sports venues, and calls for a 9.75% tax rate on retail sports betting, and 14.25% on mobile.