LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A bi-partisan coalition of Kentucky legislators, representing both urban and rural areas, is pushing to legalize sports betting in the state beyond horse racing.
The effort comes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May that struck down a federal ban on sports gambling.
“The state, I believe, ought not to be involved in how I spend my entertainment dollars,” said Republican Rep. Jason Nemes of Louisville.
Nemes is part of a new nine-person task force formed to craft a sports gaming bill for the 2019 session of the General Assembly.
“I don't think it can pass with either party standing alone," Nemes said. "We need to come together to get this thing passed, and I think we will."
The bill would legalize betting on professional sports but not for high school and below. Whether to allow gambling on college sports is still being debated.
Supporters say it could generate anywhere from $5 million to $30 million a year for the state.
“We have to act on it quickly," said Sen. Morgan McGarvey, a Louisville Democrat who is also part of the task force. "We cannot put our heads in the sand and be the last state to do this."
Gov. Matt Bevin has been a vocal opponent of casinos, but he has adopted a wait-and-see approach to sports gaming.
“The bottom line is, really and truly, what does the bill say? What is it about?" Bevin said in May. "Who wrote it? What does it say? What kind of support for it is there?"
Opponents said they will fight hard to stop any effort to expand gambling in the state.
“When I look at the end result of what gambling has done to families in other states, in other communities, in other cities, I cannot in good conscience support something that will be destructive for your family,” said Curtis Woods, associate executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Nemes said he understands and expects opposition, which is why he wants the bill to include a local option.
“If a particular county doesn't want it to come to their area, it can't,” Nemes said.
Supporters hope to allow sports betting both online and at physical locations, much like horse racing. Unlike casinos, they said allowing sports gambling will not require amending the state constitution.
“I think we need to get in front of this and set up the responsible framework here, because the rest of the country is already doing it,” McGarvey said.
The nine-member panel includes six Representatives; Nemes, John Sims (D-Flemingsburg), Diane St. Onge (R-Fort Wright), Kim Moser (R-Taylor Mill), George Brown (D-Lexington) and Dean Schamore (D-Hardinsburg) and three Senators; Julie Raque Adams (R-Louisville), McGarvey and Julian Carroll (D-Frankfort).
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