Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Introduced During 2023 Legislative Sessions

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Feb 8, 2023 07:00 PM
Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Introduced During 2023 Legislative Sessions

The latest round of Kentucky legislative sessions began on February 7, and as expected, sports betting was among the most pressing items on the docket. In fact, officials wasted little time introducing the latest Kentucky sports betting bill, which sets the stage for an incredibly pivotal debate.

Some will be inclined to infer a collective stance on legal wagering given how quickly the newest proposal, known as HB 106, made it on to the legislative floor. We would caution against it. This Kentucky sports betting bill was technically approved for introduction all the way back in January. Making it to the House of Representatives and Senate floors was merely a formality.

Still, its official appearance is important. It means the legalization of sports betting in Kentucky is on the agenda, and that it has enough supporters to warrant serious discussion. The fact that HB 106 seeks to green light online sports betting in Kentucky may be a good sign, as well. Typically, only states with serious interest in taking legal sports betting to the next step make online wagering a focus.

Does this mean Kentucky is on the fast track to joining more than half of the United States and opening the legal sports betting doors? Let's see if we can read between the lines to find the answer.

Details of Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Paint Complicated Picture

As already noted, the 2023 Kentucky sports betting bill seeks to legalize online wagering, including daily fantasy sports. However, the exact details are a little more nuanced and reflect what might be sticking points in conversations moving forward. Here is Gaming Today's Rebecca Hanchett with the full breakdown:

"Officially filed on Jan. 5, this session’s retail and mobile sports betting bill (HB 106), sponsored by House Minority Floor Leader Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, could be assigned to committee this week. It has until March 15 to pass through the House and Senate before lawmakers begin wrapping up this year’s regular legislative session. 

"The legislation would tether sports betting to the state’s horse racetracks, with one sportsbook allowed per track for retail and mobile betting for an initial licensing fee of $500,000 and an annual renewal fee of $50,000. Betting would be allowed on professional sports, college sports (including the University of Kentucky), and international events like the World Cup. Fantasy sports and online poker would also be legalized under HB 106.  But HB 106 faces a rough road to passage. Kentucky has a one-party legislature run by Republicans. Graham is a Democrat. That puts the chance of any bill he sponsors at a disadvantage, since Republicans run the committee system."

The Republican party roadblock has been well-chronicled. And it's not the only complication that faces Kentucky sports betting. Because this legislative session is taking place during an odd-numbered year, any constitutional amendment needs three-fifths majority approval from both the House of Representatives and Senate. This increases the state's dependence on Republic support for sports betting.

It isn't yet clear how much of a hurdle this will be. Some of the terms included by Mr. Graham are clearly aimed at appeasing Republicans. Democratic Senator Andy Beshear has also tried heavily lobbying for Kentucky sports betting, in hopes of swaying Republican holdouts. In most years, this wouldn't be nearly enough. Republicans have widely opposed sports betting in the past. This time, though, market research may be forcing their hand.

Make No Bones About it, Kentucky Residents Want Legal Sports Betting

Multiple polls have been conducted by Republican pollster Robert Blizzard of Public Opinion Strategies over the past couple of years—including in 2022. The question they seek to answer: Do Kentucky residents support legal sports betting?

The answer is a resounding and undeniable "yes."

According to the last poll, 65 percent of all voters in Kentucky support some form of sports wagering. Here's the breakdown by political affiliation, courtesy of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce's official website:

  • Republicans: 58% support, 34% oppose
  • Independents: 81% support, 10% oppose
  • Democrats: 69% support, 22% oppose

That is an overwhelming majority. And believe it or not, it's just the tip of the iceberg.

Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Makes Telling Concession

It is noticeable that the latest Kentucky sports betting bill would legalize online wagering. That hasn't always been the case on past proposals. But officials on both sides of the matter seem to recognize the futility in leaving online betting off any piece of legislation.

This is in no small part thanks to the poll from above. According to the latest results, 48 percent of people in Kentucky have bet on sports since 2020. This isn't very hard to believe. Kentucky residents have easy access to wagering alternatives. Not only has pretty much every surrounding state legalized betting, but most of the sites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks allow people from Kentucky to set up and service accounts.

The inclusion of online sports betting, then, may be the most telltale sign of all. If Republicans are open to talking about it, they're clearly intrigued by the revenue they're losing to other states and off-shore sportsbooks. 

Are they intrigued enough to legalize sports betting during the 2023 legislative sessions? That much remains to be seen. But we should have our answer no later than March 15.

Take a look at this list of all the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs:

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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