A bill to legalize sports betting in Kentucky passed through a state House committee unanimously on Wednesday, raising hopes that the legislation will be able to clear the full chamber soon.

Sports betting legislation Kentucky Maine
Proposed legislation in Kentucky would legalize sports betting in the state, including on local college sporting events. (Image: James Crisp/AP)

Similar legislation also passed the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee last year, but never received a full House vote.

Kentucky Legislation Allows Betting on In-State Events

The bill would legalize and regulate sports betting along with fantasy sports and online poker. Revenue raised through the bill would go toward the state pension system.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger), did feature one change that would set it apart from many similar frameworks in other states. It allows for betting on in-state college sporting events, which could be huge in a state that features two premier basketball programs in the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville.

Kentucky’s state constitution prohibits gambling outside of horse racing, but Koenig is hopeful that sports betting could be considered a game of skill.

House Minority Floor Leader Joni Jenkins (D-Louisville) told the Louisville Courier Journal that the bill could pass the house as soon as Friday. However, its prospects in the state Senate are less clear.

“I’m neither for or against it; I’m somewhat ambivalent,” Republican Senate President Robert Stivers told reporters. “I think it generates some money, but very little in the overall context of the budget.”

Nebraska Bill: Sports Betting is Game of Skill

The game of skill argument is also at the heart of a bill introduced earlier this week in Nebraska. State Sen. Justin Wayne (D-Omaha) is pushing a series of gambling-related measures, including one that would declare sports betting, poker, and fantasy sports as skill-based games. Doing so would provide a workaround for a state ban on most forms of gambling.

Wayne says that legalizing sports betting would capture revenue that is currently flowing over the border to Iowa, where approximately 80 percent of all sports bets come from Nebraska bettors.

“If we’re serious about long-term tax relief, we have to look at new revenue sources,” Wayne said, via The Grand Island Independent.

Veto Could Sink Maine Wagering Bill

In Maine, efforts to legalize sports betting have stalled after Gov. Janet Mills vetoed a sports wagering bill last Friday. In explaining her decision, Mills said she wasn’t convinced by arguments that regulating the industry would take it out of the shadows.

“If you legalize it, regulate it, just because it’s happening and we know it’s happening, then you might as well legalize and formalize and promote betting on the weather, betting on the next election results, betting on the spelling bee champion of Cumberland County,” Mills told NECN. “I don’t think that’s where Maine people are at just yet.”

Maine legislators planned to vote on Tuesday to either sustain or override the veto, but that action was delayed because some lawmakers weren’t available. Democratic state Sen. Bill Diamond told NECN that he doesn’t expect the veto to be overridden, but that a new version of the legislation could be passed in the future.

“Maine is a gambling state for sure, we just want to do it right,” Diamond told NECN.

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