“This runs counter to the constitution.” Gambling critics hate to hear the word and do their best to prevent them from being uttered. Based on each state in the U.S., the wording in the constitution of the state may or may not allow referendums on any kind of gambling expansion to be put to a public vote.
That was the case in Rhode Island, New York and elsewhere, and attorneys also dig in and decide what is supposed to be the correct interpretation of the law. In the case of Kentucky and sports gambling, legal review has found that, much to the frustration of gambling critics, “the state constitution already permits sports gambling.” The road to legal sports gambling in Kentucky has just become clearerBefore a hearing held on Monday by legislators of the Kentucky Interim Joint Committee on Licensing, Employment, and Administrative Regulations.
Daniel Wallach assured those present that the court system of the Blue Grass State had already agreed–long ago–that there would be no need for constitutional change to allow additional gambling activity. He explained,[The] controversy was resolved nearly 130 years ago about whether sports betting is included within the constitutional ban on lotteries. The debate has come to an end. The framers considered it and dismissed it. Wallach, a professor at the Law School of New Hampshire University, referred to a dispute over a century ago as to whether or not lotteries and gambling were in the same group on events such as horse racing or sports. We then decided we weren’t, saying that sports gambling is a skill game. This ruling was upheld after the turn of the century by the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
The announcement was particularly positive for Representative Adam Koenig, who pre-submitted a sports gambling bill to be discussed next month by the state’s general assembly. The legislative initiative will place the operation in charge of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and require any racetrack in the state to set up a sportsbook, as well as any pro sports venue that could seat up to 50,000 fans. Digital wagers would be permitted, but for a 14.25 percent tax on their adjusted gross revenue, virtual sportsbooks would be on the hook. Retail sportsbooks would only have to pay 9.75%, and racetracks would also have to pay another 0.5% to fund the thoroughbred and standardbred programs of Kentucky.
Kentucky has another incentive that might help see next year’s sports gambling become legal. Andy Beshear is now the state governor and a strong proponent of the state’s increased gaming operations. He beat out incumbent Matt Bevin, who didn’t want more state gaming, and once said, wrongly, that gambling triggered regular suicides at casinos.
Starting January 7, legislators from Kentucky return from their break and the session lasts for 60 days. There is a good chance that the legislature will be close to legalizing sports gambling by the time it wraps up on April 15.