Sports wagering in Kentucky: Unintended consequences

Sports wagering passed a committee hurdle on Wednesday and goes to the House floor for a vote. (Adobe stock photo)
Sports wagering passed a committee hurdle on Wednesday and goes to the House floor for a vote. (Adobe stock photo)

In his first State of the Commonwealth address on Tuesday night, Gov. Andy Beshear called on legislators to do more to serve “Team Kentucky.” In the address he referenced Luke 12:48, saying Kentucky’s legislative leaders have a great responsibility to serve.

One of the ways he believes legislators should serve the citizens of the commonwealth is by expanding gambling in hopes of bringing in new revenue. In the address he applauded Rep. Adam Koenig, a Republican from Louisville, who is the lead sponsor of House Bill 137 which will allow sports wagering in Kentucky.

Gov. Beshear, along with several of our elected officials, sees sports betting as a first step toward a larger vision of more gambling in Kentucky. You read that right. These leaders want more gambling in Kentucky. While there are certainly revenue issues in our state, Kentucky Baptists do not see sports betting, or expanded gambling, as the answer.

In fact, it is a safer bet that legalizing wagering on sporting events will not help families and will have unintended consequences.

According to a 2017 article at, Europe has experienced problems with sports betting. It says that cricket leagues across England have seen an increase in game fixing since betting on the matches became legal. In our own country, a 2016 NCAA survey of more than 20,000 NCAA athletes revealed that almost 25% of them gambled on sporting events. While the majority said they bet on NBA and NFL games, some said they bet on other NCAA sporting events. No one thinks it is a good idea for those playing in NCAA contests to bet on those games.

If House Bill 137 passes, then gamblers could even legally bet on college sports played here in Kentucky. Is this the way we want to honor our amateur athletes at our state schools?

Last November, I joined more than 1,000 Kentucky Baptist leaders at our annual meeting. We passed a resolution against expanding gambling in Kentucky. We believe expanding gambling is not a way we can better love our neighbors. We believe gambling does not promote a strong and healthy work ethic but entices people to be greedy as they will only succeed when others lose. We believe our commonwealth is not made better or stronger by expanding gambling as it seeks to prey on citizens rather than protect and serve them.

House Bill 137 does more than allow sports wagering to come to Kentucky. It is intended to be a gateway for expanding gambling in Kentucky.

Sports wagering is the first effort in this year’s General Assembly to advance gambling in Kentucky. If this bill passes, then casino gambling will likely be next. I encourage you to contact your state legislator by calling (800) 372-7181 and letting them know you oppose House Bill 137.

TODD GRAY is the executive director and treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.


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