FRANKFORT, Ky. — Editor's Note: The above video is from March before the sports wagering bill passed through the House.
Medical marijuana will not be legalized in the 2022 legislative session, but sports betting still has a chance, according to a member of Senate Republican leadership.
Kentucky’s legislative process requires each chamber to read bills into the record three times on three separate days.
After Tuesday, only three calendar days will be left for the 2022 session.
Senate Majority House Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) said the bills legalizing medical cannabis and sports betting in the commonwealth don’t have enough support to pass in the Senate, but he’s keeping the latter bill alive in hopes to get it through when lawmakers return for their final days in Frankfort following the veto period.
House Bill 136, which would legalize medical marijuana, passed out of the House earlier this month.
The Senate has yet to act on the measure despite it having support from many Democratic and some Republican senators.
In January, Thayer said he’d call the medical marijuana bill for a vote if he had enough votes in his caucus – Senate Republicans – for passage.
Tuesday, Thayer was asked to clarify if there was enough support if both Republicans and Democrats were included in the vote.
“We don’t have enough votes in the Senate to pass medical marijuana,” Thayer repeated.
Sen. Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville) disagreed. He said he believes there would be enough votes to pass it - but even if there weren't, he said the Senate should still call it for a vote.
"The people of Kentucky deserve to know who supports it and who doesn't," McGarvey said.
While sponsor Rep. Jason Nemes was hopeful that the bill would make it through the legislature this year, not everyone was on board. In January, Senate President Robert Stivers said he was open to discussing the issue but had personal concerns about advancing the legislation.
This is the third time a bill legalizing medical marijuana passed out of the House but stalled in the Senate.
The bill to legalize sports betting, House Bill 606, may have a chance of passing if the bill's sponsor, Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger), can gather more support.
"I'm trying to take this opportunity to educate and inform and let folks know that, not only is it wildly popular from an electoral perspective, it's not a problem. It's actually a net plus for folks," Koenig said.
Under the bill, people would be able to place wagers on-site at licensed tracks, online or via a smartphone.
Wagers could be made on professional sporting events, college sporting events, international events such as the Olympics and World Cup Soccer and, after consulting with the league or association sanctioning a sporting event, proposition (prop) bets.
“It’s an uphill battle,” Thayer said. “There’s still a lot of opposition for religious reasons in rural areas in the state.”
Thayer said he plans to read the bill into the record on the Senate Floor Tuesday and Wednesday to give Koenig more time to gather support for it.
“To me, it’s a no-brainer,” Thayer said. “It’s just another extension of wagering on horse racing, which is a form of sports betting, but a lot of people look at it as a new form of betting and they’re opposed to it on religious grounds.”
After Wednesday’s legislative session, lawmakers will take a 10-day break, referred to as the veto period.
They’ll return April 13 and April 14 for the final two days of the 2022 legislative session.
“That’ll give Chairman Koenig ten days over the veto break to continue to build support for it in the Senate.”
Koenig said a study done three years ago estimated sports wagering could bring in more than $22 million of revenue if legalized in Kentucky.
"If you want to expand freedom, give people protections, generate more money for the pension system, it's a great way to move forward with that," he said.
For now, the future of sports betting in the state remains unknown.