FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Supporters of legalizing sports betting in Kentucky notched a key victory Friday, when the state House passed a measure to regulate the wagering and reap revenue from the venture.
The ultimate outcome is still in question as the bill goes to the Senate after clearing the House on a 58-30 vote. Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers, but the issue has divided GOP ranks. Friday was the 51st day of this year’s 60-day legislative session.
Similar measures died in prior years, a reflection of how divisive gambling is in the state that’s home to Churchill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby is run.
Republican Rep. Adam Koenig, the bill’s lead sponsor, said Friday that it would bring “activities that go on in every corner of this state out of the darkness and into the light.” He cited estimates that more than $2 billion is wagered illegally on sports each year in Kentucky.
“The fact is, we’ve been betting on sports in America since they invented sports,” Koenig said.
Tax revenue generated from sports betting would flow into the state pension system. Sports wagering is expected to generate at least $22.5 million a year in revenue, Koenig said.
Opponents warned that the temptation of sports wagering would drain money from families.
Republican Rep. Josh Calloway called it “an irresponsible way to drive revenue.”