Kentucky, North Carolina Sports Betting Bills Near Passage

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North Carolina and Kentucky are both close to passing sports betting bills. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Sports betting in Kentucky and North Carolina 

Kentucky and North Carolina are on the verge of legislative breakthroughs regarding their sports betting markets.

the new plan would expand sports wagering to online operators

In Kentucky’s case, the local sports betting market involves entirely illegal operators. Numerous unsuccessful attempts have been made to create a legal market in the past. North Carolina offers sports betting at three local tribal casinos, and the new plan would expand sports wagering to online operators.

Kentucky’s legislative session ends Thursday, meaning that the General Assembly needs to reach a vote or postpone any changes to existing legislation. North Carolina is in less of a rush and also already has its foot in the door with retail sports betting at the casinos.

Making a breakthrough 

Kentucky is debating House Bill 551 which, if legalized, would make it the 37th state with legal sports betting.

“There are some undecideds, and I’m hopeful that with a good night’s sleep and a fresh set of eyes that we can have the votes to pass it [Thursday],” Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) said Wednesday.

If a vote is not taken – or if the proposal does not garner the necessary support – lawmakers will need to wait until January 2024 at the earliest to consider legalization. Kentucky came close to a vote last year, but did not hold one before the session ended. 

Minority Caucus Chair Reginald Thomas (D-Lexington) said that the seven Democrats unanimously supported the sports betting bill. The “undecideds,” in that case, would be among the 30 Republicans.

this is a critically important issue that Kentuckians want”

“We’ve been united in terms of the important issues for the people this session… On this issue this is a critically important issue that Kentuckians want,” said Thomas. “I suspect that we (Democrats) will be together tomorrow.” 

The bill needs at least 23 votes (60% majority) to pass. Notably, it made it out of the House via a 63-34 vote. Governor Andy Beshear already said that he would sign a sports betting bill if it was sent to his desk.

Expanding operations

While Kentucky is fighting to establish its sports betting market, North Carolina is looking toward expansion. The limited retail betting market was a breakthrough at first, but is now becoming a hindrance as the gambling boom continues across the country.

HB 347 made it out of the House with a 64-45 vote. It now awaits a verdict in the Senate, which already approved the bill that brought sports betting into the three tribal casinos in 2021.

Similar to Kentucky, Governor Roy Cooper has already voiced his support for sports betting and will pass the bill when and if it comes across his desk. 

The new proposal would extend offers to 10-12 online sportsbook operators and charge them a 14% tax on revenues. Supporters say that this would lead to a major increase in funding for the state.

give $2m to creating and developing problem gambling resources and programs

The bill, which experts estimate could bring as much as $80m in annual tax revenue, would go to internal development, including $1m for the development of youth sports and $300k+ for ten in-state colleges and universities. It would also give $2m to creating and developing problem gambling resources and programs.

A similar bill was one vote short of the necessary support last year, though there is optimism that that extra vote will be secured this time.

“I think what’s really changed is the attitude of lawmakers,” said sports betting analyst Geoff Zochodne. “It seems like there is more of an appetite to pass that type of legislation that didn’t pass the first time around.”

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