FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56) – Kentucky will spend another Super Bowl weekend without any sports betting law on the books. More than 30 states have made it legal, and lawmakers could see the issue come up again during this legislative session. State Representative Adam Koenig is still putting the final touches on his bill, it will be the 4th time he’s tried to get sports betting through the General Assembly.
“Since the last Super Bowl I think there’s been a dozen states that have legalized sports betting,” Koenig told FOX 56. He said plenty of residents are telling him that they’re already taking advantage of what neighboring states have to offer, no matter how inconvenient it may be.
“People who live up in Northern Kentucky by me who say ‘I can’t believe I have to drive to Indiana to bet Super Bowl’ or to bet UK or whatever it may be. People that hit me on Twitter all the time saying well another weekend of me driving over to Indiana, parking in a McDonald’s, making my bets and driving home,” he said.
“The other side is always saying, ‘well there’s money going across the river’ and they quote studies done by pro-gambling organizations. They don’t have any evidence that any money is going out of this state. There might be a little money going out of this state, but you’re not going to solve that by giving everybody in the state who’s not even near the river an opportunity to this on their cell phones,” Martin Cothran, spokesman for The Family Foundation told FOX 56. Cothran said his organization isn’t currently taking any active action because no legislation is currently filed, but in past years the organization has advocated against the issue, calling it “bad policy.”
“They have to do it through a constitutional amendment bill, there is no other way to legally do this, and they keep avoiding that problem by just pretending that it doesn’t exist,” Cothran said. He said without an amendment, sports betting wouldn’t fit under the three forms of gambling Kentucky does allow: para-mutual horse wagering, charitable gaming, and the lottery. He also believed it will create other financial problems.
“Now you’re going to allow them to engage in sports wagering with credit cards on a cell phone, making it even easier to impoverish people,” Cothran said. He claimed lawmakers want to avoid pushing the issue through a constitutional amendment because of the higher threshold of votes such legislation would require and the added step of putting the issue on the ballot for voters to decide. Koenig said a Public Opinion Strategies poll found Kentuckians support the issue.
“I think they said 24% would support someone who votes for sports betting, 16% said they would vote against and the rest of them said it would make no difference,” Koenig said. Koenig also shared the American Gaming Association estimates $2 billion is gambled illegally each year in Kentucky. Two years ago, the state was estimated to profit $22.5 million in tax revenue, and now Koenig believes that number could be higher due to sports wagering’s increasing popularity.
“That’s a lot of lost revenue, that’s a lot of people choosing to do something that is technically illegal that could very well be made legal and they’re doing it without any protections from their government,” Koenig said.
Koenig added that in previous bills he had also included money to help with gambling addiction. Instead, he plans to also file a separate bill establishing a long-term trust to deal with that issue and said it would be the most robust system in the country if it is passed.
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