Beshear and Koenig Team Up to Push KY Gambling Bill

Beshear and Koenig Team Up to Push KY Gambling Bill

There aren’t many issues that garner bipartisan support in today’s American political environment. But there they were – a Democratic governor and Republican State Representative – holding a press conference in support of sports betting.

The press conference last week brought the unlikely pair together. Newly-elected Democratic Governor Andy Beshear and Kentucky Representative Adam Koenig took to the podium on February 6 to discuss the benefits of a pending bill that would expand gambling in Kentucky. It not only focuses on sports betting; it also includes fantasy contests and online poker.

Momentum is building for the bill to pass the House, but there is some doubt that it will pass the Kentucky Senate. If that happens, it won’t be for lack of a strong bipartisan effort.

A Democrat and a Republican Walk into a Press Conference…

There is no punchline. It happened last week, when Beshear and Koenig took to the much-publicized press conference. They also brought friends, including leaders of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Fayette County Education Association, and a pension advocacy group called the Kentucky Government Retirees.

All of them support HB.137, the Koenig-sponsored bill pre-filed in the House in December and officially introduced on January 7, 2020.

The Associated Press reported that the core message was that Kentucky needs the additional revenue. And the sooner that Kentucky offers sports betting the better, as Kentuckians are traveling to neighboring states in big numbers to take advantage of legal sports betting.

Beshear noted, “I’m tired of trailing other states. It’s time that we get into this game and we make sure that we are keeping these dollars at home.” He went on to say that expanding gambling options in Kentucky would be the right thing to do, not only for business and tourism but to support underfunded public pensions.

Koenig added, “Let’s give grown adults the opportunity to make their own decisions.”

Gearing Up for a House Vote

At the press conference, Koenig revealed that he hasn’t delivered the bill from to the House floor because of ongoing conversations with other lawmakers. He wants to make sure that the majority of representatives are “comfortable” with it, though he feels there is already enough support to pass it.

HB.137 passed the House Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Committee little more than one week from the day it was introduced. And that vote was unanimous.

In the past month, HB.137 has been posted to the Rules Committee and garnered continuing support. There are now 38 cosponsors, not including Koenig, signed on to the bill. There have also now been five amendments to the bill on a variety of provisions. For example:

–Change online poker oversight from Lottery Corporation to Public Protection Cabinet

–Segregate sports wagering from advanced deposit wagering

–Remove prohibition on betting on Kentucky collegiate teams

–Change details pertaining to membership in Kentucky Horse Racing Commission

–Clarify 5% of all wagering administration funds to problem gambling assistance

–Require criminal background check for fantasy contest operators

–Clarify requirements for segregation of funds for fantasy contests and sports wagering

–Specify the age of 18 as minimum for placing wagers

The last amendment was filed on February 5, just last week. Pending any further changes necessary after conversations with other lawmakers, Koenig should soon be prepared to officially introduce the bill to the House.

Senate Concerns

As recently as January 31, the Louisville Courier-Journal noted that there was opposition in the Senate. Even though that information came from gambling opponent Family Foundation of Kentucky, there was some confirmation from members of the Senate.

The newspaper did receive some confirmation. Senate President Robert Stivers was somewhat “ambivalent” about the bill but also “remains dubious of its potential to generate significant revenue for the state.”

House Speaker David Osborne noted that his constituents, especially those in rural areas, were not so receptive to added gambling in Kentucky.

Turning Tides

The ongoing conversations seem to have swayed some opinions. The aforementioned AP report noted that Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said the bill now has enough support to pass. “The sports wagering bill is one of the few opportunities to not only have a bipartisan victory,” he said, “but also find some new funding for the budget needs that we have.”

If the tide is indeed turning and Senate passage looks probable, Koenig may be poised to put HB.137 on the House floor.

Time is ticking. The last day for new Senate bills is March 3, and the entire legislative session runs out at the end of March for normal business.



About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

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