FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky’s “gambling problem” appears to be an even bigger issue now as the state of Ohio has passed a bill to legalize sports wagering. Ohio joins West Virginia, Indiana and Tennessee as Kentucky’s border neighbors that allow legal sports gaming.
“Yes, it’s a concern we are sending revenue across the borders,” said State Representative, Adam Koenig of Kentucky’s 65th district, which covers portions of Northern Kentucky.
Koenig believes the state is losing tens of millions of dollars in potential tax revenue by punting on the bill he’s been sponsoring for many years. (It has been tweaked in some areas over time.)
“According to the American Gaming Association, two billion dollars a year is wagered illegally by Kentuckians,” Mr. Koenig stated. He has concerns about that, too, and they have nothing to do with lost revenue to the state.
“There’s no safeguards for you, and those people are operating without being taxed,” he noted. He also said a gambler risks never seeing his/her winnings, should a bookmaker have an off week, or an off-shore account loses a bundle or closes up.
“We should be debating how to regulate it, the licensing process and where the revenue would go,” said Rep. Buddy Wheatley, a Democrat from the 65th district.
Koenig and Wheatley sit on opposite sides of the aisle on most every other issue, except sports wagering. And they agree that the move by Ohio’s legislature may not impact what lawmakers in Kentucky ultimately decide.
“That argument had been made for years and years about casinos,” Mr. Koenig said when asked about the legislature succumbing to pressure from other states in the region. “It didn’t go anywhere, so I don’t know that will be a factor,” he added.
On that, Wheatley agreed, too.
“I don’t think that decision (in Ohio) will have an impact here,” Mr. Wheatley said.
“I’m going to try to find out,” Koenig concluded.