The flurry of US legislative activity continues as Kentucky’s Rep. Michael Meridith has filed House Bill 551 in yet another bid to legalize sports betting in the state.

This is the second bill to be put to the house this year with the aim of legalizing Kentucky sports betting, after Rep. Derrick Graham, Rep. Cherlynn Stevenson and Rep. Rachel Roberts put forward HB 106. The key difference is that HB 106 also seeks to legalize online poker and daily fantasy sports as well as sports wagering.

What does Kentucky Bill 551 look like?

Bill 551 would leave sports wagering as the responsibility of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, and retail betting would be limited to the state’s horse racing tracks. In addition, each horse racing track would be able to partner with three companies to offer mobile sports wagering on a statewide basis.

Numerical highlights surrounding the bill include:

  • Tax revenue could bring in between $12 million and $20 million each year
  • Licence fees would be $500,000 for horse racing tracks, plus $50,000 each year
  • Online betting operators, who would partner with horse racing tracks would pay $50,000, plus $10,000 each year
  • Kentuckians must be at least 18-years-old to wager

Kentucky is a state that has historically tried to legalize sports betting each and every year. This year marks the fifth year of proposed legislation, with the last four all seeing legislation fail in the house or senate.

A similar bill to Meredith’s, HB 606, proposed by Rep. Adam Koenig in 2022 made it through the house 58-30 but faltered in the Republican dominated Kentucky Senate, where it failed to receive a vote. Given typical republican opposition, however, many believe it would not make it through a senate vote. This year, the senate is comprised of 30 republicans, 7 democrats and one seat is currently vacant.

Kentucky’s lawmakers have been busy with gambling related activity already this legislative session. House Bill 551 also contains legislation that would simply outlaw gray area machines, which it argues makes convenience stores illegal casinos. A competing bill, HB 525, argues for the creation of the Kentucky Gaming Commission which would be tasked with the regulation of these electronic gaming machines, taxed at 6 percent.

Interestingly, there seems to be an overall lack of harmony or synchronicity between Kentucky lawmakers. Multiple bills dabble in multiple issues, and the broad nature of the bills tends to lead to large legislative debate in both house and senate. Perhaps a more narrow legislative approach, tackling just one issue per bill, would lend itself to greater success in the senate.

Recent sports betting launches have included Ohio sports betting and Massachusetts sports betting. Sports betting continues to sweep the United States, with legalization common and legislature filed in states where it remains illegal. The pickup on iGaming, however, remains glacial and looks set to continue in that manner. Analysts will be hoping for New York online casino, although Rep. Addabbo has suggested it’ll face a huge struggle. Indiana online casino has died in the house, while New Hampshire has squeezed through the first of many committees.