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Kentucky lawmakers consider legalizing sports betting

Bipartisan panel of Kentucky lawmakers crafting bill to allow betting on games, will it include gambling on college sports.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WHAS11) -- A bipartisan panel of Kentucky lawmakers will release a draft of their plan that could make betting on sports legal in the Commonwealth. Two members of that panel, from Louisville, said they still have to decide key factors including whether to let Kentuckians bet on college sports.

Many states around Kentucky are racing to benefit from the recent US Supreme Court decision allowing sports betting, an effort to pass a law in Kentucky is stacking the deck with a unique bipartisan panel.

Louisville Republican, Representatives Jason Nemes, is one of the lawmakers on the right.

Louisville Democrat, Senator Morgan McGarvey is one of the lawmakers on the left.

They and seven other state lawmakers fill a panel, are looking for common ground when it comes to betting on sports. Commonwealth lawmakers have repeatedly failed to pass expanded gaming legislation. This, they say, is different and with support from leadership in the House and Senate, they're hopeful sports gaming won't suffer the same defeat.

"There will be some states that beat us to the punch,” said 19th District Kentucky State Senator Morgan McGarvey. “But if we can work on it this summer, with the Democrats and the Republicans we've put together, the urban and rural legislators, the House and Senate members, in a really truly bipartisan task force, then I think we can get this done next January or February when we go back into session and we'll still be on the forefront of it.”

In fact, of the seven Kentucky border states, West Virginia is a sure bet having already passed a plan. Lawmakers in five other states, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee and Ohio, have spoken about or introduced plans bettering their odds of allowing sports gambling. The only long shot is Virginia with no real public conversations or announced bills.

"It's not a question about whether or not the states have the ability to do this, it's whether we should it, “Said Senator McGarvey. “And, with all of the states that already hopping onboard, Kentucky should not put its head in the sand and be last.”

Both lawmakers say the panel still has to decide tax rates, how to address gambling addiction and what's anticipated to be the aspect that will create the most public debate, whether to allow betting on college sports.

"We get it right by going slowly, deliberately, not too slowly, but deliberately," said Representative Nemes. “So, we have our draft and we're going to release that to the public in the next week or two, ask a number of questions for comments and hopefully have these provisions correct and move forward.”

The plan, both lawmakers say, could generate between $5.5 million and $26.5 million in revenue. That's a wide margin, but the tax rate and betting on college sports will determine the final revenue projections.

We’re told that the money taken in would go to the state's general fund, not earmarked for designated spending.

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