Kentucky Senate to Take Temperature on Sports Betting Bill Next Week


FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Kentucky General Assembly’s 2022 session wraps up in one week. And while legislators are currently on recess as Gov. Andy Beshear considers signing or vetoing several bills, there still remains a few pieces of legislation that could receive votes when lawmakers return next Wednesday. One of those items is legalizing sports betting.

Kentucky sports betting billboard
Kentucky sports betting billboard
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce posted an e-billboard ad urging support in the General Assembly for House Bill 606, which would legalize sports betting in the state. The state’s legislature concludes its 2022 session next week. (Image:

Senate Republican leaders met in the state capital on Thursday to discuss how the final two days will play out. Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, told reporters before the meeting that GOP lawmakers want to end the 60-day session on a “strong note.”

However, when asked about the chances of House Bill 606, which would legalize sports betting and online poker as well as regulate daily fantasy sports, Stivers cast a skeptical tone. He dismissed sports betting as “not that big of a fiscal issue,” noting that it would not generate a large sum of tax dollars.

“If you think about $1, this wouldn’t even be a penny in receipts for what it may generate,” Stivers said.

Proponents estimate sports betting would generate more than $20 million in revenue for the state. That would come from a 9.75 percent tax on adjusted gross revenue (AGR) from retail sportsbooks and a 14.25 percent levy on AGR from online wagering applications.

The state’s budget forecasts General Fund revenues of $13.4 billion for the 2022-23 fiscal year, which starts in July.

Kentucky Sports Betting is ‘An Appetizer’

While Stivers professed ambivalence about the sports betting bill, that differs somewhat from his previous statements on it.

After the House passed the bill by a 58-30 vote on March 18, Stivers told Spectrum News that the bill created “no energy” for him and cast doubts many Senate Republican colleagues would vote for it.

On Thursday, he called it a “small entertainment issue” compared to what attracts people to the state, saying sports betting would be “an appetizer or dessert” compared to what the bourbon industry, horse racing, or adventure tourism generate for the state.

“So that’s why I don’t think it has a lot of energy over on the Senate side, but there are people who are very supportive of it,” Stivers told reporters.

One of those supporters is Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown.

Just before the legislature adjourned on March 30, the Senate gave HB 606 two readings on the floor. That set up the bill for a possible vote either next Wednesday or Thursday. But besides a third reading on the Senate floor, the bill must first pass out of the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee.

Different Viewpoint in Suburban Areas

Thayer told reporters Thursday he still considers HB 606 a long shot to pass next week, but proponents are working to get support from senators.

Republicans hold 30 of the Senate’s 38 seats. Thayer wouldn’t say if it would need either 15 or 16 GOP yes votes to get to the floor. However, he did say the leadership will “take a temperature read” when everyone returns to Frankfort next week.

While Stivers, who represents a rural southeastern Kentucky district, says the bill doesn’t do much for him, Thayer, whose district stretches from Lexington to northern Kentucky’s Cincinnati suburbs, says it dominates conversations he has with constituents.

“It’s the only thing that people want to know about right now,” Thayer said. “This has been a great session. Probably, the second-best session I’ve ever been a part of, next to 2017, in terms of moving the state forward with conservative policies, but all I get asked about is sports betting.”

Senate Getting First Look at Bill

HB 606 sponsor state Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, told on Thursday evening that he took Stivers’ comments as a positive sign even if the Senate president doesn’t exactly support the bill himself.

In the week since the veto period began, Koenig said he’s had some productive conversations with senators. It’s similar to how he won support for the bill in the House last month.

House members have had this bill for four years,” Koenig said. “The Senate has had it for less than four weeks.  So, they are learning and focusing on it now.  Several are open to the idea, and I look forward to continuing to talk to them.”

Just as was the case in the House, Thayer said some senators have deeply held religious beliefs that will keep them from voting for any bill that expands gaming.

He said sports betting proponents need to respect those beliefs.

“I think it’s important for the sports betting advocates not to be insulting of that,” Thayer said. “I disagree with it, but I respect that opinion. And, frankly, there are people out there who have megaphones, who are for sports betting, who have been insulting towards those who disagree with us on this. That’s not helpful, and it’s frankly, why we haven’t been able to make more progress on getting it passed.”

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