Kentucky will soon find itself nearly surrounded by states with legal and regulated sports wagering. Could 2020 be the year when Kentucky gets it done?
West Virginia, another Kentucky neighbor, kicked off sports betting last year. Virginia, Missouri, and Ohio, the other three Bluegrass State neighbors, are also looking at the activity.
Four of the seven Kentucky neighbors will soon have legal sports betting, with the other three considering it. When Indiana legalized earlier this year, Kentucky state Rep. Adam Koenig, the Republican sponsor of the legislation that failed to gain enough votes earlier this year, remarked about how close sports betting would be for many of his constituents.
“It will be a 20-minute drive for me to get to the nearest Indiana casino if I wish to make a sports bet,” Koenig said. “Again, we need to be ahead of the curve in Kentucky and legalize this.”
When Illinois legalized last month, Koenig said on social media: “Another border state about to legalize sports betting. We need to get this done in 2020.”
Borders to watch
In Kentucky’s cities, there is plenty of support for legalizing sports betting. However, when you get into the more rural areas, there is far less support. The problem is that many in Kentucky have long complained about the adverse economic impact of legal casino gambling on Indiana’s border. That situation hasn’t made the difference with pushes for casino-style gambling in Kentucky over the years.
West Virginia legalizing in 2018 didn’t help Kentucky’s cause this year. Illinois is a very gambling-friendly state and the additional b&m casinos authorized under its recently passed gambling expansion package are not going to be placed along the border with Kentucky. In other words, the threat from Illinois hasn’t drastically increased.
The more interesting situation occurs along the Kentucky-Tennessee border. The latter state doesn’t have any casinos, like Kentucky, so with online/mobile sportsbooks potentially launching sometime next year in the Volunteer State, Kentucky policymakers, perhaps some in rural areas along said border, might warm to the idea of legal sports betting.
Tennessee is projecting that 3.5 mm of its annual tourists, some of which come from Kentucky, will engage in sports wagering while visiting the state.
Recap of Kentucky’s 2019 efforts
The state’s 2019 sports betting bill, which also include the legalization and regulation of online poker, was dead in March. Koenig told US Bets that 2020 actually is more promising because of legislative procedure in the state.
“We will regroup and reload with a better plan to win the hearts and minds of the public next year,” Koenig said. “We will only need a simple majority [of votes], and it will be a budget year where that $20-$48 million [in tax revenue] will look a lot more important. I really like the chances next year.”
In 2019, Koenig needed to find 60 votes from the 100 House members (a three-fifths supermajority) on the revenue-generating bill. In the even-numbered year of 2020, Koenig’s bill will need just 51 to reach the state Senate. Koenig had a whopping 20 co-sponsors in the House.
According to Koenig, the state’s Baptist community was especially resistant to the idea of more gambling in the state. However, as the lawmaker alluded to, Kentucky can’t sit on the sidelines with sports betting becoming legal around it.