Kentucky Hopes 2020 Is Lucky for Online Poker
After legislation failed to approve online poker in Kentucky in 2019, a key sponsor feels optimistic about next year. The new governor, Andy Beshear (l.), is more pro-gambling. Plus, the legislative calendar favors a simple majority instead of the 60-votes-of-100 threshold in force in 2019.
When 2019 began, Kentucky looked like it was on track to become the fifth state to legalize online poker, after Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. West Virginia beat it to the punch, but the Bluegrass State could still become No. 6.
Bill H 175, introduced by Rep. Adam Koenig this past spring, would have legalized both online poker and sports betting. Online poker would be regulated by the state lottery under the bill, while the Horse Racing Commission would oversee sports betting and daily fantasy sports.
The effort failed to secure the 60-vote supermajority needed to pass. Koenig vowed to return in 2020, according to OnlinePokerReport.com.
There are good reasons to expect the next incarnation of H 175 to pass. One has to do with Kentucky’s legislative system. Lawmakers work on a two-year cycle, with the state’s budget laid out in even-numbered years. In those years, the rules work differently for bills related to revenue. If a bill proposed in a non-budget year seeks to generate or appropriate revenue, it requires approval from 60 percent of the 100-member House to pass.
In a budget year, however, it requires only a simple majority of 51 votes.
Even years also have longer sessions, giving Koenig more time to secure the required votes. The sponsor has indicated that he expects his fellow lawmakers to be more focused on tax revenue this year as they work on the budget. Under projections from 2019, legal sports betting and poker would drive $20 million to $50 million in revenue to the state annually.
Also, Kentucky just elected a new governor. When Andy Beshear was the state’s attorney general, he urged lawmakers to legalize gambling. He argued that the tax revenue created could be used to fund harm-reduction programs and patch the hole in the state’s pension program.
As chief executive, Beshear can have the final say on Kentucky online poker. Koenig will still need to find the necessary votes, but having the overt approval of the governor should make it easier.
Kentucky lawmakers who were previously on the fence, meanwhile, may regret the missed opportunity. Most neighboring states in the Midwest have already passed similar legislation, and the rest appear to be on their way too. Success elsewhere may be seen as a model of what to expect in Kentucky, and the tax dollars being generated should inspire some budgetary jealousy.
At the moment, Michigan is the only other state having a serious conversation about regulating online poker.
Kentucky’s next legislative session begins January 7.