Kentucky Lawmakers Are Disinterested In Passing Sports Gambling Bills Any Time Soon

Kentucky state legislative session is set to begin on January 12, 2021, at Frankfort. Considering the year is odd-numbered, the state can only hold a 30 day legislative session, which minimizes the odds of launching sports betting in the state. During an interview with the KET program Kentucky Tonight, Republican leaders from the House and Senate sounded disinterested in passing sports betting bill during the upcoming session.

David Osborne, the house speaker, and Robert Stivers, the president of Kentucky’s Senate, joined Kentucky Tonight to discuss the upcoming session when a question about sports betting came up only for them to respond without zeal about its legalization. Stivers commented that the horse racing industry needed reforming before the lawmakers take a look at a new form of gambling.

Stivers was referencing an incident that occurred last year when the state’s Supreme Court commented that the horse racing commission was wrong to introduce historical horse racing (HHR) to tracks. The HHR is a form of gaming based on the outcome of races in the past. This form of gambling has increased purses and the quality of live racing in Kentucky.

However, the court said that one of the HHR systems did not meet set standards for pari-mutuel betting. One of the things the system is missing is having upfront cash to payout jackpots, yet it’s still running. According to Stivers, this issue should be addressed before another form of gambling is introduced.

Sports Gambling Is a Divisive Issue

State Representative Adam Koenig introduced a sports betting bill tying most licenses to horse racing venues in the state. Osborne co-sponsored the bill, which later passed house licensing, administrative regulations committee, and occupations but never got a vote on the floor.

Although Osborne supported the bill last year, he agreed with Stivers on first addressing HHR before sports gambling. However, several other house members support sports betting, creating a divisive line between those in support and those not supporting. Several lawmakers have been discussing the issue, but it might take the back seat to first deal with historical horse racing.

Sports Betting Is Not in Kentucky’s Books

After the January 5, 2021 interview at KET Kentucky Tonight, the channel also aired a pre-recorded interview with governor Beshear. The talk featured a sports betting topic where the governor had some views about it. During the interview, Beshear said that Kentucky was past the years it was supposed to pass sports wagering bills. In his comments, he said that the state should have passed the bills immediately after PASPA was overturned.

Beshear said that five of Kentucky’s neighboring states were almost to offer sports betting, which meant most Kentuckians would wager through their mobile devices on sportsbooks based in those states. According to Beshear, introducing sports gambling would only put the state at a competitive disadvantage. Beshear was also asked about the revenue sports gambling would generate but suggested that lawmakers legalize casinos instead.

With the COVID-19 pandemic already threatening the state’s life, Osborne and Stivers said that this year’s session would comprise short committee meetings, unlike previous odd-numbered legislative session. Ultimately, the legislature will only have enough time to pass the 2021-22 budget and no time for sports gambling.


Logan is based in Los Angeles and is an avid poker player having played in tournaments across the globe. He covers both poker & regulatory affairs.