It seems that we would probably pick up a few votes by not having online poker in the bill. A Republican lawmaker in Kentucky said a sports betting bill that he and others are working on during this year’s legislative session would likely not include online poker.
In an exclusive interview with Poker Industry PRO, Rep. Michael Meredith (R-Oakland) said a final draft version of the bill isn’t expected to be complete for at least another week. He hopes to have the bill ready by February 7, when the legislature resumes its 30-day session for 2023.
“It’s likely at this point that online poker will not be in the bill,” Meredith said Wednesday. “It seems that we would probably pick up a few votes by not having online poker in the bill.”
Part of the reason for removing online poker is that Kentucky is a socially conservative state with few gambling options.
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“Frankly, Kentucky has never been a state that’s on the forefront of gaming issues,” Meredith said. “We’re not a casino gaming state — we’re a pari-mutuel wagering state for horse racing and historical horse racing. We have charitable gaming, and we have the state lottery.
“If we want to be successful in sports wagering, I don’t know that involving online poker is advantageous to the effort.”
No matter where you’re at in Kentucky, you can be in another state that offers sports wagering in less than two hours drive, and you can bet from your phone without entering into a gaming facility. Meredith said he has support from Rep. Matthew Koch (R-Paris), chairperson of the House Licensing, Occupations, & Administrative Regulations Committee, and House Speaker David Osborne (R-Prospect). He also said he has had “conversations on a regular basis” with Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown).
At least two or three Democratic lawmakers in the House are also on board, according to Meredith. Earlier this month, three House lawmakers introduced a separate bill to legalize online poker and sports betting in Kentucky.
Lawmaker Optimistic Bill Will Pass KY House
Any bill to enact sports betting in KY — whether it includes online poker or not — will need 60 votes to pass in the House. Last year, a similar bill championed by former Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger) passed the House on a 58-30 vote.
Meredith thinks he will have the 60 votes needed to get his bill through the House.
“We are pretty close to 60. Of the 58 that passed it last time, we’ve got 30 or 31 returning [Republican] members who supported the bill. I think we will have enough of our new members who were elected in the last election to get us up into the 40s.
“I don’t want to speak for [the Democrats], but they have generally been more supportive of gaming than we have been as a party. They have 20 members in their caucus — I would expect that we will get most of them once we’re able to share the draft with them. I feel pretty good about being right around that 60 number, if not a little above.”
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OH, IN Developments Having an Impact
It makes sense for Kentucky to at least be able to take in some revenue from what people are already doing and to make sure that it’s regulated in a proper manner. Meredith said expanded gaming in the region was affecting the debate in Kentucky.
Ohio mobile sports betting launched on January 1, and lawmakers in Indiana have introduced a bill to offer online casino gaming there. Indiana and most of Kentucky’s other neighbors — Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia — also have sports betting. West Virginia has online casino gaming as well.
“No matter where you’re at in Kentucky, you can be in another state that offers sports wagering in less than two hours’ drive, and you can bet from your phone without entering into a gaming facility,” Meredith said. “We know the activity is taking place. We also know that illegal activity is going on — whether through the corner bookie or folks running offshore gaming websites somewhere. We got all that going on in the state.
“At this point, with the access already there, I think we can make a strong case that it makes sense for Kentucky to at least be able to take in some revenue from what people are already doing and to make sure that it’s regulated in a proper manner.”