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Sports betting bill one of four gaming bills passed by Kentucky House panel

Four gaming-related bills passed out of a Kentucky House committee Wednesday morning, including a bill that would legalize sports betting in the state.

The House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee passed House Bill 606 unanimously. The bill, sponsored by Committee Chairman Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, would allow the state’s race tracks to offer sports betting to adults aged 18 and up. The measure includes both on-site sportsbooks and online wagering apps.

The bill now heads to the House floor. A similar measure Koenig sponsored two years ago also passed the committee unanimously but failed to get a vote on the floor.

After the committee hearing, the sponsor sounded optimistic about its chances. He referred to the scores of messages supporters submitted as being helpful. The bill also has the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s support.

Last month, a survey found nearly two-thirds of registered voters polled support the legislation. That included a majority of Republican voters.

“It’s about getting the broader support from the (Republican) caucus,” Koenig said after the hearing. “But those phone calls and those emails matter, to let people know that, ‘It’s OK. If you vote for it, we’ll have your back.’”

The Family Foundation of Kentucky voiced opposition to the bill, telling lawmakers that sports betting was predatory against the state’s poorest residents.

Besides the sports betting bill, the committee also unanimously passed two other bills.

One reforms pari-mutuel wagering, the type of betting used in horse racing. The bill would create a 1.5% uniform tax rate for all pari-mutuel wagers, including on-track bets, bets through online advanced-deposit wagering accounts and historical horse racing machines. The bill also would cap funding for horse development funds, which would generate more revenue for the state’s general fund.

The other bill passing unanimously would take the $225 million Kentucky received last year from the decade-long PokerStars illegal online poker lawsuit and put it into the state’s first problem gambling treatment fund. That amount of money would likely keep the program solvent for generations.

The fourth bill that passed out of committee would ban so-called “gray machines,” or unregulated skill games that have proliferated across the state.

The legislation sponsored by state Rep. Killian Timoney, R-Lexington, would prohibit games not associated with charitable gaming, the Kentucky lottery or historical horse racing. In addition, it would put the Kentucky State Police in charge of removing any machines found to violate the law.

“If you see these gaming machines across the country, they go into communities that show how profitable they are, and then the law has to react,” Timoney said. “We have to follow the right process.”

Proponents of the gaming machines countered. that the machines provide a valuable revenue stream for small businesses and that the companies involved have self-regulated the industry.

A proposed substitute bill that would regulate the games failed in a voice vote, and the bill itself, House Bill 608, passed by an 11-3 count, with four other members passing.

This article was originally posted on Sports betting bill one of four gaming bills passed by Kentucky House panel

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