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Will Kentucky legislators even look at sports betting?

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky appeared to be a top candidate to legalize sports betting in 2020. Now, it could be 2022 before the state legislature gives it another chance.

Rep. Adam Koenig will submit another Kentucky sports betting bill in 2021 after his efforts failed this year. It might not matter, though. A recent state Supreme Court ruling puts Kentucky’s current gaming industry in jeopardy.

Historical horse racing contributes significant tax revenue and cash for horse racing purses throughout the state. Handle from the slot-like machines was more than $2.2 billion in fiscal 2020 which translated to $33.8 million in excise taxes for the state. It has also led to higher purses for Kentucky’s horse racing industry. The importance of that issue and the shortened 30-day session means sports betting might not get a fair chance on the floor this year.

The Kentucky legislature only meets for 30 days in odd-numbered years. Four days in January will be used for organizational issues like organizing committees. Most of the legislative work comes in February and early March with the session ending March 30. With an issue as important as getting historic horse racing on the right side of the law, sports betting might not even get a chance to be heard.

Gaming not a popular topic in Kentucky. Passing a bill to legalize historic horse racing machines in the state would be the biggest gaming vote in Kentucky since the lottery passed in 1988. The idea of there being two significant gaming issues decided in one year in the conservative state is hard to imagine.