The Push to Legalize Kentucky Sports Betting Already Running Out of Time in 2023

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
The Push to Legalize Kentucky Sports Betting Already Running Out of Time in 2023

Could 2023 be the year the push to legalize Kentucky sports betting is finally successful?

Don't, ahem, bet on it.

Recent reports paint a bleak picture of the future of sports betting in Kentucky. These developments will end up catching a lot of people off-guard. And we can't blame them in the slightest.

Indeed, Kentucky has failed to legalize sports betting at multiple turns over the past half-decade. But they closed out 2022 by gaining real traction on the subject. Support for Kentucky sports betting appeared at an all-time high throughout numerous levels of the government, and Kentucky governor Andy Bear wasted little time renewing his sports betting proposal following the conclusion of this past November's major elections.

So how exactly did we end up here, at a point where legal Kentucky sports betting in 2023 isn't just up in the air but somehow already running out of time? Let's find out.

The Latest Bid to Legalize Kentucky Sports Betting is Facing More Hurdles and Delays Than Expected

Anyone looking for a unique answer to Kentucky's sports betting dilemma is about to be severely disappointed. It turns out the state is merely suffering from a case of "Too much red tape."

Kentucky's latest sports betting bill, H.B. 106, was introduced by Representative Derrick Graham on Thursday, January 12. This introduction came much later than expected. After all, as we already mentioned, Governor Andy Bear began the process almost immediately following the November elections. However, more than a month passed without the state delivering a concrete proposal.

Since H.B. 106 wasn't officially submitted until now, it can not pass through any of the state's committees until the second week of February. And that, in turn, means Kentucky lawmakers will have just 26 days to deliberate on and settle a matter they've been unable to resolve since 2018.

This timeframe isn't being pulled out of thin air. Kentucky requires a constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting, so the bill must be put to a statewide vote. The earliest that can happen will be during the 2024 elections. But H.B. 106 must first be slated for the ballot. It has to pass through the Kentucky House of Representatives and Senate during the next round of legislative meetings.

Fortunately, it just so happens legislative sessions are held in odd-numbered years—like 2023. Unfortunately, they only last 30 days, compared to 60 in even-numbered years, including a brief adjournment period. Not only are the 2023 Kentucky legislative sessions already underway, but they just adjourned until—you guessed it—the second week of February. Once the meetings reconvene, they are scheduled to wrap up sometime in March, so H.B. 106 will have to enjoy a meteoric rise through the ranks to make it on the 2024 ballot. And as things currently stand, very few people in the know expect that to happen.

Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Doesn't Have Universal Support Throughout The Senate

Everyone pushing to legalize Kentucky sports betting isn't worried about H.B. 106 skating through the House of Representatives. The bill has widespread bi-partisan support, large thanks to the handful of new, more progressive officials who took over office following the November elections.

The Kentucky Senate is a different story. There are a few holdouts, if not more, who have seemingly made it a mission to derail H.B. 106. The sports betting crowd has not received this well. Speaking recently with the media, Governor Bear dispersed blame to a "few" members of the Senate. Though he didn't name anyone specific, his decision to air pointed grievances proves how contentious this matter has become.

Typically, a "few" holdouts wouldn't end the world. And H.B. 106 initially passed the sniff test with 58 votes against 30 nays. But odd-numbered legislative sessions in Kentucky are different. As Sam McQuillan noted for Legal Sports Report: "But even duplicating last year’s 58-30 House passage would not be enough in 2023 because bills need two-thirds support from each chamber in odd-numbered years, when lawmakers meet for just 30 days as opposed to 60. To make matters more difficult, Kentucky sports betting will be without one of its biggest historical supporters. RepAdam Koenig, the architect of the Bluegrass State’s last four sports betting bills, lost his House seat in September."

Is There Any Hope for Kentucky Sports Betting in 2023?

Never say "never." Or something.

In all seriousness, a lot can change between now and March. Heck, we saw something similar in action last year. It originally didn't look like the 2022 sports betting bill would escape the House of Representatives. Members were ostensibly grappling over whether to allow the best betting sites and online sportsbooks to apply for licenses or restrict wagering to on-site casinos and racetracks. Ultimately, the proposal went through the House with flying colors, only to die on the Senate floor.

Still, nothing coming out of Kentucky right now qualifies as good news.

It would be different if this was 2022 or even 2024, and the state didn't need two-thirds support to pass H.B. 106. But the fact is Kentucky needs the overwhelming majority of House and Senate members to support the legalization of sports betting. That's a tall order in any state that has skirted legalized sports betting for a half-decade. 

And it's a near-impossible order when sports betting proponents will have fewer than four weeks to find a middle ground with their counterparts.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can decide which one to use for all of your sports betting needs in 2023:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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