Politics

A bipartisan group of Kentucky lawmakers is writing a bill to legalize and regulate sports betting in the state.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that states should be allowed to legalize sports betting, striking down a nearly 30-year ban.

Rep. Jason Nemes, a Republican from Louisville, said the bill would generate between $6.5 million and $26 million for the state every year through licensing and taxes.

“It’s a way that we can bring more money into the state’s coffers to pay for much-needed programs but it also increases the freedom of our citizens to direct their entertainment dollars where they think they ought to,” Nemes said.

Nemes is part of the nine-member panel that’s writing the sports betting bill for consideration during next year’s legislative session.

Kentucky already allows parimutuel gambling — where winners split a total betting pool — at horse racing tracks around the state. And Kentucky already has slot machine-style games that base outcomes on previously recorded horse races using odds from the original event.

During this year’s legislative session, Frankfort Democratic Sen. Julian Carroll proposed a sports betting bill that would dedicate revenue to Kentucky’s ailing pension systems and public education. The bill did not receive a hearing.

Nemes said he’s not in favor of earmarking revenue from sports betting for any particular program.

“If it’s required to pass the bill to have a dedicated revenue stream then that’s something I could consider and support, but generally I’m against dedicated revenue streams,” Nemes said.

In a news release, the nine-member panel said the bill would be aimed at betting on professional sports “and possibly some limited instances of college sports, while banning wagering on high school or below level sports.”

Legalizing sports betting has been seen as a potential windfall for Kentucky businesses that already engage in legal betting on horse racing.

Last week, acting-House Speaker David Osborne said “there would appear to be some synergies between parimutuel wagering and sports wagering” facilities.

“…But whether or not they want to engage in it — that’s a business model decision on their parts,” Osborne said. “We don’t need to be making business decisions for them.”

In May, the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 1992 law that prohibited states from legalizing sports betting.

Delaware, Montana, Oregon and Nevada already had sports betting laws and were allowed to continue the practice.

Gov. Matt Bevin called the decision a “great win for states’ rights,” and said he’d be open to consider a sports betting bill.

Bevin has also said he doesn’t support legalizing casino gambling in Kentucky.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.