Sports wagering legislation being crafted for 2019 General Assembly


FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Legislation is being proposed for the 2019 General Assembly to allow sports wagering in Kentucky.


The bill, currently designated as Bill Request 29 and sponsored by Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, would set the framework for any horse racing track or off-track wagering facility to offer betting on other sporting events.

Carroll sponsored Senate Bill 22 during the 2018 session, in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down last month, which found the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act to be unconstitutional.  It banned sports wagering nationwide while excluding a few states. 

His bill, which would have the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to institute a sports wagering system, was not brought up in committee.  That prompted Carroll to say, “Because of the General Assembly’s failure to act on this bill, Kentucky is losing revenue daily that could be funding our schools and public employees. And frankly, our residents are now vulnerable to an unregulated sports wagering market.”

Carroll’s proposed legislation would require a majority of the revenue generated from sports wagering to be deposited into the Kentucky Employees Retirement Systems Non-Hazardous and Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement Systems proportionally. The Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship will also benefit, with the remaining going towards horse racing development funds.

The bill would also ban participants from betting on their own contests, such as athletes, coaches, referees and professional sports team owners and shareholders. It establishes a felony crime of tampering with the outcome of a sporting, with a possible sentence of five to ten years in prison.  

The money would come from a three percent tax on the total amount bet at sports wagering facilities, as well as a $250,000 licensing fee to operate such facilities, plus a $25,000 annual renewal.

The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans illegally wager about $150 billion on sports each year, and one research firm estimated before the ruling that if the Supreme Court were to strike down the law, 32 states would likely offer sports betting within five years.

Sports gambling brings its own set of troubles, said Dr. Paul Chitwood, executive director and treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

“Gambling, legally or illegally, has benefited none of Kentucky’s families or children but has delivered huge payouts in pain,” he said. “What family or community is stronger or healthier because of gambling? Are there more vexing issues we have to face than sports betting? Of course. But if you’re asking me had I rather be bitten by a Black Widow or a Brown Recluse, my answer is neither.”

State Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, has said he favors the concept.  “We should expand gaming and allow sports betting to come to Kentucky,” he said. “We already have pari-mutuel wagering on horses, and I think this is the next step and it’s appropriate to do that.”

Nemes said Kentucky can learn from other’s mistakes in how to regulate it. “There are things that we are going to need to do to make sure we don’t have a Wild West in gaming,” he said. Nemes said he will craft legislation for the 2019 General Assembly."

Jim Carroll, the president of Kentucky Government Retirees, said it “provides badly needed funding for public pensions” and urged lawmakers to “pass a bill that earmarks sports wagering for pensions.”


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