This is a very important week for Kentucky’s online poker and sports betting ambitions.
Lawmakers are currently gathering votes in an effort to pass the legislation, House Bill 175, out of the House and into the Senate. Kentucky’s adjournment sine die is Mar. 30, so the window for passing legislation is relatively short. HB 175, which comes from state Rep. Adam Koenig, a Republican from Northern Kentucky, is one of several sports betting proposals that have come forward this session, but it’s had the most activity so far and looks to be the legislative vehicle.
Koenig told US Bets on Monday that he’ll know by the end of this week if he has the votes to continue his push this session for regulating real-money poker sites and sportsbooks.
Right now, it’s unclear whether policymakers from Kentucky’s rural areas will come onboard with the gambling expansion bill. They are “hearing from baptist preachers,” Koenig said of those lawmakers. Proponents of Koenig’s bill are trying to get the point across that there is widespread support for sports betting and online poker in the state, even though some religious groups are (always) opposed.
Koenig’s bill, which has 20 co-sponsors, was amended during its time in House committees last week. The changes to the legislation were substantial.
- Bets on “random events not integral to the course of play” like NFL coin tosses are prohibited
- Bets on entertainment events like the Oscars are prohibited
- Sports betting licensing fee was reduced from $1 mm to $500k
- Online poker must be “conducted in conformance with federal law” (the Wire Act)
- Vendors who ran afoul of UIGEA (PokerStars) could be excluded from the market
What else is in the bill?
Under the legislation, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission would “institute a system of sports wagering” at tracks and other specified locations in the state. Betting could be permitted at qualifying sports venues, defined as facilities that seat more than 50,000 people.
Remote betting over mobile devices would be allowed as well, but registration for an online betting account would have to occur at a brick-and-mortar betting location.
On-site sports betting revenue would be subject to a 9.75% tax, while revenue derived from internet sports wagering would be taxed at a 14.25% rate. There would be an additional 0.5% tax on brick-and-mortar wagering revenue that would go to state horse racing funds.
Betting on Kentucky college teams, even if the game is outside of the state, would be prohibited.
Online poker would be under the control of the Kentucky Lottery. Approved vendors would have to pay a $250,000 licensing fee and pay Kentucky 6.75% of online poker revenue. There are no brick-and-mortar poker rooms in the state, and the legislation would not establish the legalization or regulation of those.
The legislation would also regulate fantasy sports in Kentucky.