Another attempt to introduce sports betting to the US state of Kentucky is underway, but it faces significant hurdles before becoming law.
Kentucky Republican Representative Adam Koenig has once again filed legislation to legalise online sports betting in the state, with House Bill 241. The new bill is similar to House Bill 137, which was filed by Koenig in the 2020 legislative session, with the core aim of legalising online sports wagering, but the new bill also includes proposals to regulate online poker and fantasy sports.
The bill is currently with Kentucky’s House of Representatives’ Committee on Committees, and is sponsored by 17 Representatives.
If it became law, the sports betting aspect of the bill would allow for betting online, mobile and at approved sports venues in the state, and consumers would be able to bet on both professional and collegiate contests. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission would be given the overall responsibility for the regulation of horse racing, pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing and sports betting.
The bill calls for sports betting licences to be set at a cost of $500,000, with an annual renewal fee of $50,000. Licensed operators would also face a 9.75% tax on their adjusted gross revenue on bets placed at the track or via professional sporting venues, along with an extra 0.5% tax to help to raise money for two new horse racing funds in the state. All licensees operating online, through mobile or via other off-site technology would pay a 14.25% levy on adjusted gross revenue. According to the bill, the regulated Kentucky sports betting market would be set to launch on January 1, 2023.
Koenig’s bill would also legislate for fantasy league contests. Companies offering fantasy league platforms would have to pay a $5,000 registration fee as well as a renewal fee of 6% of their adjusted gross revenue. It is not clear what level of taxation such operations would have to pay, but the bill does provide for a start date for fantasy sports contests of January 15, 2022.
Poker operators are also included in the bill, although it does not set a date by which online poker betting should be up and running in the state. Poker operators would pay an initial licensing fee of $250,000. These licences would run for a year and would be renewable for a further fee of $10,000. They would also have to pay 6.75% of net poker revenue every month.
Koenig’s House Bill 137 made it as far as the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee in March last year but made no further progress, and although some pro sports betting lawmakers are hoping for better this year, the bill faces significant hurdles.
Due to the Kentucky constitution, the 2021 legislative session is shorter than the 2020 session, which means time is strictly limited, and in the area of betting, there is a more pressing matter for lawmakers to resolve. That centres on Historical Horse Racing (HHR) a form of betting that is a vital source of funds for the Kentucky horse racing sector. Last year, the state Supreme Court ruled that HHR breached the state constitution, and addressing that issue is likely to take priority in 2021.