Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Moves Without Online Poker
It has happened in other states, and Kentucky is doing it, too. Consideration for legal online poker and casino games falls off the map due to a nationwide obsession with sports betting.
In fact, Kentucky lawmakers found the time to pass a bill – already signed by the governor – to ban unregulated skill games. And they have found the time to discuss sports betting in hearing after hearing. And instead of including online poker in the discussions, as originally proposed and as the governor long ago suggested, they have discarded online poker altogether.
Skill Games Not Allowed
Lawmakers in the Commonwealth of Kentucky catered to lobbying by the likes of the American Gaming Association to pass a bill to regulate game machines. That title is vague, but the summary of the bill explained a bit more, noting that the bill addresses the following:
-coin-operated amusement machines
Anyone operating those types of still-vaguely-named machines can now be prosecuted by the Kentucky Attorney General as a civil law violation. The fine can hit $25K per machine.
HB594 was the bill, which amends KRS 528.010 of the current Kentucky gambling law. These details are outlined in the bill:
-coin-operated machines may not deliver or entitle the player to cash or equivalents, tickets or tokens, or anything of value
-gambling is only permitted as a contest or game in which the winner is determined by skill, such as in charitable gaming and esports
-esports shall not include traditional casino games like poker, roulette, craps, or blackjack
-betting on horse racing via machines is not considered gambling with gambling devices
-skill-based contests refer to live, in-person competitions between two or more people in which the winner is determined by skill but not using a gambling device
Over in the Senate where @oliviakrauth is today, HB 594 to ban gray/skill games in Kentucky just got its second reading, could pass into law as soon as Monday. BAckground on the bill/issue/heavy lobbying fight: https://t.co/r0Pkmb9Hex #kyga23
— Joe Sonka 😐 (@joesonka) March 10, 2023
Sorting Through a Word Salad
The wording of the amended law is confusing and only appears to muddy the waters as to what is legal or illegal under Kentucky law.
The American Gaming Association (AGA) says it refers to “unregulated gambling machines” and will eliminate “bad actors” who operate illegal gambling. It can also apply to online sportsbooks and online casinos.
The major problem with the wording of this bill is that it puts poker in a classification with table casino games like blackjack and roulette as unskilled. And these are not only excluded from esports but from skill-based contests as well. Despite poker having proved itself a skill-dominant game in court cases and research, Kentucky lawmakers – backed up by the AGA – decided to include poker in the list of banned games, alongside normal casino games with a house/operator edge.
Reports claimed that this was one of the most heavily lobbied issues in the legislature in several years. The AGA was a big part of that movement.
Lawmakers passed the bill by a wide margin of 29-6 earlier in March, and Governor Andy Beshear signed it into law on March 16.
Just In: Gov. Andy Beshear has signed HB 594 into law, banning "gray machines" in Kentucky.
— Joe Sonka 😐 (@joesonka) March 16, 2023
Sports Betting Moves Forward
This year started out as another promising one for online poker to be legalized and regulated in Kentucky. State Representative Derrick Graham introduced HB106 in January, and State Senator David Yates proposed SB73 as a companion bill.
HB106 made a little progress by attracting several new sponsors and pulling in an amendment to allocate some funding to a problem gambling assistance fund. The bill then went to the Appropriations & Revenue Committee in late February.
That bill, which did also include sports betting, was thrown to the side in favor of HB551, which took online poker out of the picture. The sports betting bill had more than a dozen sponsors, and the bipartisan bill passed the House of Representatives on March 13 by 63-34 vote. It is expected to move through the Senate before the end of the month.
The Kentucky House was scheduled to vote on HB551, but the body stands in recess. The bill removed online poker and is designed to only legalize online sports betting. This is the last week of regular legislative sessions.
— Bonus.com (@BonusUpdate) March 13, 2023
People in Kentucky can bet on horse racing now and will soon be able to bet on sports. They will not, however, be able to find a state-licensed online poker site.