Sports betting bill filed in Senate

A bill that would allow Kentucky residents to bet on professional sports at horse tracks or at off-track betting facilities has been filed for consideration by state lawmakers in 2019.

The bill was filed last week by Sen. Julian Carroll, a Frankfort Democrat, in response to a May U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said sports wagering was unconstitutionally prohibited in most states.

Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, betting on professional sports was only legal in Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon, according to the New York Times.

Carroll said he filed a similar bill during this year’s legislative session, but it was not called to be heard.

“The Republicans dropped the ball and would not consider it,” Carroll said Thursday. “The Supreme Court went on to rule like I expected them to rule, and not we are going to have to wait until January” to put a law in place for sports wagering, he said.

Carroll’s bill would allow betting on professional and college sporting events. Under Carroll’s bill, betting could happen only at race tracks and off-track betting facilities.

Another bill could be on its way. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported a legislative committee of Republicans and Democrats has been formed to craft a sports betting bill. The Enquirer story says the bill would allow betting on professional sports, “and possibility some limited instances of college sports.” Carroll is a member of the committee.

Carroll’s bill, if approved, would funnel state receipts from sports betting into the state pension systems for state employees and teachers, into scholarships for high school students, and into “horse racing development funds,” according to a press release.

“It does not apply to high school sports,” Carroll said. “There are some limitations. If you’re a player, you cannot bet. If you’re a coach, you cannot bet. If you’re the owner of a professional team, you can’t bet.”

Carroll said he couldn’t estimate the revenue the state could receive from legalizing sports betting.

“The one thing I know for sure is I’ve talked to a couple guys at our major metro centers that tell me there’s a major amount of betting going on, and has been going on for several years,” Carroll said.

Officials from Ellis Park in Henderson, Churchill Downs, Keeneland and Kentucky Downs did not return calls for comment.

Locally, Owensboro officials said they had not yet had time to stake out a position on sports wagering at off-track facilities coming to Daviess County.

“We haven’t had a lot of conversation on what (the bill) would mean,” said Candance Brake, president and CEO of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce. “At this stage, it’s too early to be talking about.”

“We need to take a fresh look at that,” Brake said. “There are a lot of people at the state level who feel this might be a (source) of more revenue, and we all know the state is in need of more revenue sources.”

Mark Calitri, president and CEO of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said CVB officials have not yet discussed the matter.

“At this point, this legislation is not on our radar,” Calitri said. The CVB is focused on other issues, such as the opening of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum, and sports tournaments, he said.

“As the legislation progresses, I’ll be consulting with other industry professionals and our elected officials to determine the merits of sports gaming,” Calitri said.

Messenger-Inquirer article written by James Mayse, 270-691-7303, [email protected]