Posted on: March 15, 2023, 10:38h.
Last updated on: March 15, 2023, 10:38h.
The push to legalize sports betting in Kentucky took a major step forward Wednesday morning, when a bill to make the Bluegrass State the 37th state in the country easily passed through a state Senate committee.
The Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee’s 9-1 vote on House Bill 551 now means the measure is a Senate floor vote away from likely becoming law. It’s widely expected that Gov. Andy Beshear (D) would sign the bill into law, especially since it was a major part of his campaign platform four years ago.
Wednesday’s hearing was the first time a Senate committee considered a sports betting bill. A bill that passed the House last year failed to get a hearing before the session ended.
Challenges to Passage Remain
While the lopsided committee vote even exceeded supporters’ expectations, there still remain a couple of significant hurdles before Kentuckians no longer have to cross into one of the six neighboring states to wager legally.
First, the measure will need 23 yes votes in the 37-member Senate to pass. That’s due to General Assembly rules that require any bill that generates revenue or allocates money to get a three-fifths majority in odd-year sessions. The legislature passes two-year budgets in every even-year session.
Second, time is running out for the bill to be approved. Including Wednesday, there are four legislative days left in the session. What will help, possibly, is a veto recess period that starts on Friday. That will give bill sponsor state Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Oakland, and other supporters nearly two weeks to gain the support they need to pass it when lawmakers return on March 29-30 to conclude the 30-days session.
As he did after the House passed HB 551 by a nearly 2-to-1 margin on Monday, Meredith told reporters after the committee meeting that they’re about a couple of votes shy of the number needed to pass the bill.
If lawmakers approve the sports betting bill, Kentucky’s nine tracks would be able to offer brick-and-mortar sportsbooks at their locations and partner with up to three mobile operators each.
This article will be updated.