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Sports betting bill clears first hurdle in House

The Bottom Line: by John Cox

One of the most highly-anticipated bills of the 2023 legislative session cleared its first hurdle Wednesday, as House Bill (HB) 551, a measure to legalize sports betting in Kentucky, passed the House Licensing and Occupations Committee by a unanimous vote.

Sponsor Representative Michael Meredith, a Republican, and co-sponsor Representative Al Gentry, a Democrat, presented the bill to fellow committee members with a bipartisan message.

“We know that through our work on this that there are somewhere around a billion dollars or more bet annually through the illegal and unregulated market by Kentuckians on sports wagers,” Rep. Meredith said. “The bill before you today will put this industry in a legal, regulated status, so that everyone knows what the framework is, what the regulation is, and we put it under the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which has regulated wagering in this state for 50 years.”

The presenters also pointed to the fact that six of Kentucky’s seven border states have also passed some form of sports wagering in the last five years, for a grand total of 36 states and the District of Columbia nationwide that have passed similar legislation.

Supporters of the bill said it would generate approximately $23 million annually, the majority of which would go toward Kentucky’s underfunded public pension system.

The bill passed the committee unanimously and is expected to be taken up by the full House this week. Wednesday marked day 22 of the 30-day legislative session, which concludes March 30, 2023. Stay tuned to the Bottom Line for further updates.

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