The House of Representatives advanced a bill that would regulate Kentucky sports betting for the first time. The measure now moves to the state Senate, where it has a chance of passage but very little time for debate.

The 2022 legislative calendar called for 60 legislative days, with Monday being the 52nd. The Commonwealth would see both in-person and mobile wagering if the measure becomes law.

Strong Votes for Kentucky Sports Betting

The Kentucky House passed HB 606 by a vote of 58-30, with the state’s Republican supermajority dividing over sports betting. Some of the GOP would like to see a constitutional amendment process instead of regulation through legislation.

medina spirit leading the race to finish at 2021 kentucky derby at churchill downs
The home of the Kentucky Derby still lags other states in sports betting (Photo Credit: Michael Clevenger and Erik Mohn-USA TODAY Sports)

However, taking gambling measures and putting them before voters would delay the entire process for years. Because there are so few days left in the 2022 legislative session, there is no chance of a constitutional amendment passing this year, which means voters would need to wait until at least 2024 to pass regulated sports betting.

In that case, Kentucky sportsbooks wouldn’t be able to launch before 2025 at the earliest. Many gambling supporters believe the lawmakers angling for a constitutional amendment are simply hoping to delay the process.

State Representative Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger) is leading the push for a legislative solution. He has also led past attempts to bring sportsbooks to Kentucky, only to see them fail. According to him, regulating sportsbooks could generate over $20 million annually for the state’s coffers.

Kentucky Seeking to Ban Skill Games

Along with the sportsbook measure, another gambling bill cleared the House and now moves to the Senate. This measure would ban so-called gray machines, also known as skill games. These popular devices are common at truck stops, convenience stores, and bars and mimic slot machines and other video-lottery games.

However, they currently operate with quasi-legal status. Combined with Kentucky sports betting regulation, banning gray machines would be a significant reform of the Commonwealth’s gambling laws. The state has already legalized historic horse racing machines that are akin to slots.

Investing in gambling infrastructure makes sense for Kentucky in two aspects. One, the home of the Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby already has a long history with pari-mutuel betting. Expanding to other sports only makes sense, especially in a state that loves its college sports like Kentucky.

Second, Kentucky will fall behind its neighbors even further if lawmakers do not act on sportsbooks this session. When Ohio launches regulated sports betting, likely in early 2023, all of Kentucky’s neighbors besides Missouri will be taxing sportsbooks. Kentucky residents do not have to go far to find states that want their gambling money. Regulating the activity to keep the revenue home only makes sense.

Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller is a veteran casino writer with decades of experience under his belt. He's played at –and reviewed– countless of online casinos, and has written dozens of casino game guides. His strategy articles, and gambling news updates have been a fixture in the industry since 2004. A native of North Texas, Cliff is a long-suffering Dallas Cowboys fan. He enjoys sports and games of all sorts, including sports betting.

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