Kentucky showed promise as 2019 began, in becoming the next state to legalize online gambling. An early effort by Representative Adam Koenig was moving forward but fell short earlier this year. He is now ready to try again in 2020, hopefully seeing his state launch online gambling soon.
Last spring, Koenig introduced Bill H 175. The bill would have legalized online poker in the state as well as sports betting. The state lottery would have been in charge of online poker regulation while the sports betting and daily fantasy sports sectors would have been overseen by the Horse Racing Commission.
The effort has fell short, unable to gain the 60 vote supermajority needed to pass. Koenig is now ready to renew his efforts in 2020. It seems likely that the same bill will be revived and hopefully the new year will see it pass into fruition.
A new governor was elected in the fall for Kentucky, with Andy Beshear as the leader of the state. This is good news for online poker legislation as Beshear is in favor of gambling. In 2018, Beshear was the state’s Attorney General and he wrote a letter to lawmakers at the time, urging gambling legislation.
Beshear pointed out that legalizing and regulating gambling would minimize the harm, because it is virtually impossible to stop illegal gambling. He also stated that the tax revenue from a legalized market could be used for responsible gambling programs as well as the pension program of the state.
With his new position, Beshear should be a strong supporter for online poker legalization. Of course, Representative Koenig would need to find the votes, but knowing the governor is on board should help legislators feel more comfortable in approving a measure.
The previous governor, Matt Bevin, was strongly opposed to gambling.
Kentucky really needs to move if they want to stay competitive amongst neighboring states. Most states in the region have passed legislation in some form or fashion involving gambling. Indiana has seen great success with their sports betting industry and Pennsylvania has launched both online casino and poker, along with sports betting options.
West Virginia recently became the 5th state in the US to legalize online gambling and will hopefully launch services soon. Even Michigan is in on the conversation, with the potential to pass legislation regarding online gaming and sports betting by the end of this year.
For Koenig, he is not ready to give up the fight. He has more support than before and is already talking about trying the movement again in 2020. It should help that several other states have started to offer services or legislation has passed or is on the move.
As other states get started with gambling expansions, it seems to give lawmakers confidence that the industries work, which allows for more positive outcomes regarding gambling expansion legislation. Hopefully, Koenig will succeed and Kentucky will become the next to legalize online poker in the US.