LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A revived effort to legalize sports betting in Kentucky cleared an initial hurdle Wednesday with unanimous approval by the House's licensing and occupations committee.
House Bill 551 now moves to the House floor. The bill would then have to navigate the Senate before the legislative session wraps up at the end of the month.
Under the bill, the state's nine horse racing tracks would be able to get licenses to operate in-person sports books at the tracks or their offsite venues offering slots-like historical racing games, such as Churchill Downs' Derby City Gaming in Louisville.
The tracks would also be able to partner with technology providers, such as FanDuel, to offer online or mobile app betting in the state.
Efforts to legalize sports betting have fallen short in previous years, including during the 2022 legislative session.
Unlike previous iterations, the current bill would not legalize online poker or daily fantasy sports, co-sponsor Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Oakland, told the committee.
All of Kentucky's seven border states except Missouri have legal sports betting at retail locations such as casinos or through online platforms such as websites and apps, according to the American Gaming Association.
Most states moved to adopt sports betting following a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision leaving its regulation up to states.
Supporters of the bill say it would keep more of Kentuckians' money in the state.
"Kentucky residents are participating in that activity already; they're either doing illegally or simply going across the border and spending their discretionary dollars there," said co-sponsor Rep. Al Gentry, a Louisville Democrat, during committee testimony. "This will tax, regulate and make it legal."
While Democrats and many moderate Republicans favor sports betting, some socially conservative lawmakers have balked at the idea of expanding gambling.
"This type of predatory gambling is designed to prey on human weakness with the government colluding with gambling interests to exploit our fellow Kentuckians," David Walls, executive director of the Family Foundation of Kentucky, a Christian public policy organization, told the committee Wednesday. "It is an industry designed not to create wealth, not to encourage hard work, but to simply transfer wealth from those with the little to a multibillion-dollar industry, while encouraging our citizens to gamble with their financial security."