Why Kentucky Should Legalize Sports Betting, Part I: It’s Already Here – Opinion

The Kentucky General Assembly is set to resume its 2023 session next week in Frankfort. While there will be several bills discussed in the House and Senate, there’s one piece of legislation that has not yet been filed, but which is attracting a lot of attention.

Purple People Bridge
Purple People Bridge
The Kentucky-Ohio state line marker on the Purple People Bridge connecting Cincinnati with Newport, Ky. On one side of the bridge, you can legally bet on sports. You can on the other side, too, but just not in the same way. (Image: Purple People Bridge/Facebook)

State Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Oakland, is working with colleagues in the House, as well as Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, on the latest iteration of a bill to legalize sports betting in the Bluegrass State. Last year, the House passed a sports betting bill for the first time. But it was never heard in the Senate, as the votes simply weren’t there to pass it before the session ended.

But just like spring training for most baseball teams, hope springs eternal for supporters that this year will be the year for the bill.

If I had to set odds on its approval this year, I’d put its passage at +400. There are, I believe, some challenges that still need to be overcome, and I question whether that will happen this year.

I’ll address those at a later time. But for now, I want to begin laying out the reasons why I believe sports betting should be legalized in Kentucky, my home state, and why it should happen this year.

And I’ll start with the obvious.

Sports Betting is Already in Kentucky

By that, I’m not just talking about sports betting already being legal in six of the seven states surrounding Kentucky, nor am I just talking about the presence of illegal gambling in the state. And I’m also not talking about horse racing, on which pari-mutuel betting has been legal in this state for more than 100 years.

No, I’m talking about the fact that I can go on a daily fantasy sports (DFS) site like PrizePicks or Monkey Knife Fight and bet – ahem, excuse me, pay an entry fee – on whether players will or won’t hit certain stat lines in their game.

Several weeks ago, my college-age son told me some friends of his were getting into sports betting. Knowing they were located in the middle of the state and under the age of 21, I first assumed they were using an offshore sportsbook or a bookie. Turns out, they’re playing DFS.

Many see little or no difference between a DFS site and a sports betting app. Just like many don’t see the difference between a Wheel of Fortune-themed historical horse racing (HHR) terminal and a Wheel of Fortune-themed slot machine. They don’t care what you call the game. They just want a chance to play and win.

You Can’t Place a Bet, But You Can Buy One

There’s also another way you can bet on sports in Kentucky right now.

Want to bet on the Kentucky Wildcats to win the national title? You don’t have to drive from Louisville, cross the Ohio River, and place a wager in the Hardee’s parking lot at the first Jeffersonville, Ind., exit past the Lincoln Bridge on I-65 to do it. (Pro tip: If you want to avoid tolls, take either the Second Street Bridge from Downtown Louisville into Jeffersonville or I-64 west across the river and find a parking lot in New Albany, Ind.)

No, you can go on your computer or phone and look up available bets at PropSwap, like I did while writing this. Think of it as eBay for sports bets. I found two people who put their UK NCAA title futures bets up for bid, and people in Kentucky — or in 22 other states — can buy those wagers.

There are legitimate reasons you can cite when arguing why sports betting shouldn’t be legalized. But ones that focus on fears of what it will do to people or communities if it becomes available don’t score points with me. Sports betting, legal or not, is already available everywhere, including right here in Kentucky. We might as well have laws and regulations that can protect bettors, and perhaps generate some modest revenue for the state.

As I said up at the top, I have multiple reasons why I think Kentucky lawmakers should pass a sports betting bill. Next time, I’ll get into the political reasons why they should.

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