FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) – The Super Bowl is the biggest American sporting event of the year, and not just on the field. The American Gaming Association estimates that more than $ 4 billion was wagered on the big game this year.
Only a fraction of this has been legally implemented.
Sports betting has been allowed in almost half of the country since the US Supreme Court issued a federal ban in 2018. But you can’t do that here in Kentucky – at least not legally.
However, there is increasing demand that the Commonwealth should benefit from it.
Dollars and sense?
“Everyone knows it exists,” said Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, about illegal sports betting. “Everyone knows it is happening. But people who do this have no protection and the state does not benefit from it. “
Rep. Koenig has sponsored sports betting for a number of years, including House Bill 241 at this session.
He says that an estimated $ 2 billion is illegally used in Kentucky each year. According to HB 241, five percent of the net money the state receives through sports betting would be used for addiction prevention and treatment, the remainder for the state’s pension obligations.
Kentucky could be the last of its neighbors to legalize sports betting.
- It went live in Virginia in January.
- West Virginia has spent a lifetime of $ 665 million in sports betting and pumped $ 5 million in taxes into state coffers.
- In Tennessee, where sports betting was launched in November, sports betting was valued at $ 312 million for the first two months. The numbers show tax revenue of around $ 5.5 million.
- According to the Gameboard’s monthly reports, Illinois’ total revenue in just five full months in 2020 was over $ 1.39 billion, representing more than $ 15 million in tax revenue.
- Indiana has processed a total of $ 2.2 billion since September 2019 – and around $ 17 million in tax revenue. (Keep in mind that many sporting events have been canceled for much of the spring and summer of 2020.)
- Sports betting isn’t yet legal in Ohio or Missouri, but officials say it could be approved in those states in 2021.
Here in the Commonwealth, lawmakers believe that sports betting could bring in at least $ 20 million in tax revenue each year.
Tug of war for bets
Governor Andy Beshear, D-Kentucky, has said he wants to see sports betting. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce lists it in their legislative priorities to restart Kentucky. And a non-partisan group of co-sponsors signed Rep. Koenig’s bill.
Despite the growing dynamism, a certain resistance remains inside and outside the halls of the state capital in Frankfurt.
The family foundation – among those who are prosecuting historic horse racing – also rejects sports betting. Executive Director Kent Ostrander says that talk of dollars and cents often skips the toll that gambling can mean to families.
“We do not want families to be used in a predatory manner in a gambling program of any kind,” said Ostrander. “If you have a pool in your yard and don’t bother to put a fence around it, you could be held liable if the neighbour’s children come by and get injured in that pool. Because it’s an attractive but dangerous nuisance. Gambling is the same.
“You can win all kinds of money, but you can also lose a lot,” he said, “and this is rarely mentioned when you come into the game.”
Two million American adults (one percent of the population), according to estimates by the National Council on Problem Gambling, meet the criteria for Serious Gambling Problems in a given year. Another four to six million could be classified as “light” or “medium” according to the NCPG.
Ostrander believes the real numbers could be even higher.
“Tell me the only limitation there is in playing,” said Ostrander. “There aren’t any. The gambling establishment can take you for every penny and just smile, pat you on the back and tell you,” We have a 12-step program for you. “
Ostrander also wonders how much financial good it would actually do for the state.
“It’s part of the culture”
However, observers say there is a growing appetite for sports betting in Kentucky – especially due to the state’s strong ties to college athletics.
And sports betting is becoming more and more mainstream as it is deeply rooted in sport itself: over / under, point spreads and money lines are just as common on scoreboards and in sports apps as dates, times and TV channels.
“I work for ESPN and now every time we talk about the game, we talk about the distribution of points. In the air we talk about betting, ”said Matt Jones, host for Kentucky Sports Radio. “So it’s part of the culture.”
Sporting gambling has been a recurring theme at KSR lately as Jones tries to figure out where lawmakers stand on the issue compared to their stance on historic horse racing.
Current appeal for sports games
YES – 42
NO – 15
Lynn Bechler refused to answer
I’ll get more answers tomorrow ….. pic.twitter.com/UMcXbV9kzf
– Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) February 2, 2021
“I think it’s utterly hypocritical for lawmakers to be for historic horse racing and not sports games,” he told WKYT’s Garrett Wymer. “So I try to bring them all up to date on sports games and see which ones say, ‘No, I’m against sports games, but I’m for historic horse racing,’ which of course is completely done above.”
Jones said he thinks 60 to 70 percent of Kentuckians would support sports betting if they were put on the ballot.
“It’s not a controversy,” he said. “And many of those who would vote no buy lottery tickets and tell themselves it’s not a game of chance. I’m here to tell you, this is also gambling, it’s just gambling that you cannot win. “
What are the chances?
Many, like Jones, believe that the issue is when and not if sports betting is legal in Kentucky.
This year, some industry publications expected Kentucky to be one of the next states to pass sports betting.
However, that prospect has cooled a bit for a number of reasons, including an emphasis on historic horse racing after the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in September that some of the machines used across the state are illegal.
(Historical value for horse racing in fiscal 2020 was more than $ 2 billion, generating $ 33.8 million in taxes, based on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s excise duties.)
The legislature also has to pass a budget during the 30-day short session. As of Super Bowl Sunday, only 19 days of law remain in the regular session of the 2021 General Assembly.
MP Koenig said he was unsure of the chances of his bill passing this session, but said the chances were probably as good as the previous session when his proposal failed despite alleged majority ownership in both chambers .
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