FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky is one step away from legalizing sports betting, but it's still a "tall mountain to climb" before the legislative session ends later this month, according to the second-ranking state senator.
A Senate committee endorsed House Bill 551 Wednesday morning, a first for the Senate, which includes many social conservatives who are wary of expanding gambling.
The last hurdle for the bill, which Gov. Andy Beshear supports, is a vote on the Senate floor that would come during the final two days of the session on March 29 or March 30, according to Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown.
Because it is an odd-year session of the legislature, the bill needs a higher threshold of support -- 23 of the 38 senators -- to pass.
The additional three votes represents "a big hurdle," Thayer told WDRB News.
"We're going to try and we're making the case, but you know, there are people who have moral convictions against gambling and I'm going to respect that," Thayer said. "But hopefully, people will reach out to their senators over the next ten days or so and talk to them about their support for the bill."
Previous attempts to authorize sports wagering have fallen short, but this year's effort is a pared-down bill that does not legalize online poker, nor daily fantasy sports.
It would enable Kentuckians to bet on games at horse tracks and at casino-style historical horse racing venues like Derby City Gaming.
No physical locations other than those owned by the state's nine horse tracks could conduct sports betting.
Online and app-based platforms like FanDuel and Draft Kings will also be allowed to operate in Kentucky after reaching a partnership with one of the horse tracks. Each track can reach a deal with up to three online vendors, according to the bill.
The measure is expected to generate about $22 million annually in tax revenue for the state.
About 80% of the betting would take place online and through apps, according to Rep. Michael Meredith, the sponsor of the bill.
A majority of states have legalized some form of sports betting since a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision paved the way, including six of Kentucky's seven border states.
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