With support from educators, top business leaders, law enforcement and retirees, Gov. Andy Beshear on Thursday called on lawmakers to pass sports betting legislation to stop Kentucky dollars from flowing to neighboring states and use those funds for needs in Kentucky.
“We have a real urgency in Kentucky. We need new revenue to support the needs of our communities, our state and especially our children who deserve the best education,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “We have an urgency to keep millions of Kentucky dollars from crossing our rivers and going to support the education and pension systems in our neighboring states. We are with business, education and pension leaders – Republicans and Democrats – working together on the same team. We all agree that passing sports betting is the right thing to do and we are working together to help move the state forward.”
“Sports wagering provides much needed revenue and has bipartisan support in the legislature,” said Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman. “Passing this bill is a way we can all work together to support public education and provide Kentucky’s students and teachers the resources they need to cultivate the workforce of the future.”
Gov. Beshear, Rep. Adam Koenig, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ashli Watts, Fayette County Education Association President Jessica Hiler, Jim Carroll, president of Kentucky Government Retirees, and a bipartisan group of about 20 lawmakers joined other supporters at the Capitol on Thursday to urge lawmakers to pass House Bill 137.
“This is a common sense proposal with broad support that would allow adults to legally engage in sports bets as entertainment,” said State Rep. Adam Koenig. “We know that Kentuckians are already gambling on sports, let’s make a move that allows us to regulate it and generate revenue for the state without raising taxes.”
Representatives from the State Fraternal Order of Police, firefighters, property valuation administrators, Kentucky Travel Industry Association, meetNKY, Commerce Lexington and the NKY Chamber also attended Thursday in support. Others supporters include the Kentucky Sheriffs’ Association and many local chambers across the state including Greater Louisville Inc., and Commerce Lexington.
“Like it or not, residents from every community in the Commonwealth are already betting on sports, either illegally through bookies or online, or legally across our border,” said State Rep. Al Gentry. “Regulating and taxing it in Kentucky helps us minimize illegal activity and generate revenues that allow us to help those with addiction problems and contribute millions to our pension liabilities. It helps us retain millions in discretionary spending dollars by our residents within our borders.”
Sports wagering would generate an estimated revenue increase of $22 million to $25 million a year.
On Jan. 15, the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee passed the bipartisan legislation 18-0, highlighting broad support. The legislation would also authorize fantasy sports and online poker.
“Kentucky’s children, educators and schools deserve the resources they need to be successful,” said Jessica Hiler, president of the Fayette County Education Association. “Sports wagering presents a tremendous and bipartisan opportunity to provide new revenue for public education and public pensions and for that the General Assembly should act to pass this bill.”
House Bill 137 would legalize sports wagering at horse race tracks and the Kentucky Speedway, as well as authorize mobile betting through online apps. The horse racing industry supports the effort.
“As the voice of Kentucky’s business community, passing sports wagering in 2020 is a no-brainer,” said Ashli Watts, president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. “Not only will it make us more competitive with our surrounding states who have enacted it, but it will also put much needed revenue in our state budget to help fund our state’s public pension system. Sports wagering is a win-win for Kentucky – it’s good for business, good for taxpayers and we encourage the legislature to take action this General Assembly.”
Currently, sports betting is legal in 20 states including Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Arkansas.
Americans illegally bet at least $150 billion annually on sports, according to the American Gaming Association. This legislation would not only ensure the state receives some of that revenue, but also ensures that it’s a regulated industry and not operating on the black market.
Gov. Beshear supports expanded gaming that would generate enough revenue, again that Kentuckians are already spending in neighboring states, to adequately fund the pensions promised to educators, first responders and state employees, but did not include the potential revenue in the balanced, responsible budget he proposed to lawmakers Jan. 28. The governor proposed modest revenue measures – less than half of what was passed by lawmakers in recent budgets – that have bipartisan support in the General Assembly.