House gives approval to sports and fantasy wagering, banning ‘gray machines’

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Two bills dealing with gambling in Kentucky were passed by the House on Friday, one that would legalize sports and fantasy wagering, and another that would ban so-called “gray machines” in stores.

House Bill 606, sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger) would allow in-person fantasy and sports wagering in person at sites such as racetracks, as well as permitting the development of online and smartphone apps.

Koenig pointed out that 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized sports wagering, and that there are billions of dollars already being wagered illegally in the state each year. “I think it’s important to bring those people out of the shadows, to dry up the black market, and make sure the people of the state have the benefits of their government protecting them.”

He estimated it would generate at least $22 million in tax revenue to the state each year, which would go to shore up Kentucky’s underfunded public pension systems.

But Rep. Chris Fugate (R-Chavies) responded, “The people of Kentucky, those wagering, would have to lose $220 million to get back $22 million for the state pension coffers. I believe we ought to make policy that puts jobs everywhere in the state of Kentucky, that would allow people to make money to pay taxes from their week’s work and get money that way, rather than policy that would take away from people with no reward. I oppose the bill.”

Rep. Al Gentry (D-Louisville) supported the measure, saying the state is missing out on tax revenue. “People who enjoy wagering on sports already do it in my area.  Access is not the problem, they either do it illegally, or they simply go across the bridge to Indiana and do it there.”

Rep. Josh Calloway (R-Irvington) also spoke in opposition. “There is a better way to drive revenue. ‘Profit and labor’ is an old proverb that has always worked.  As we drive this state forward economically, when we put our hands to the task, there is profit that comes from that. I believe this bill is irresponsible, I oppose it and ask people to vote against it.”

Dr. Todd Gray, executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, was saddened by the House vote.

“It is very disappointing to hear that the Kentucky House passed the sports gambling bill. When we elect leaders to higher office and send them to Frankfort, our hope is that they will legislate for the common good of Kentuckians rather than to be beholden to the financial interests of the gambling industry,” Gray said. “I ask Kentucky Baptists to join me in praying for and reaching out to our Kentucky senators asking them to oppose expanded gambling in Kentucky.”

The measure passed 58-30.

The House also approved HB 608, sponsored by Rep. Killian Timoney (R-Lexington), which would ban gambling machines, sometimes called “Gray Machines,” which have cropped up at convenience stores across the state.

Supporters said the machines cut into revenues from the Kentucky Lottery and charitable bingo operations, while opponents, including the machine providers, said the machines provide additional funds to the businesses that host them, and that they are games of skill. They also said it puts the state in the business of picking winners and losers.

That measure was adopted 50-31.

Both now head to the Senate.

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Written by Tom Latek. Cross-posted from Kentucky Today.

Kentucky Today

Kentucky Today is a news and commentary site sponsored by the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

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