Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Dies Another Death

Posted on March 11, 2021

No, Kentucky sports betting didn’t die so that historical horse racing could live. But it did die — at least for 2021.

Kentucky Rep. Adam Koenig tells PlayTenn that his bill to legalize sports betting and online poker in the Bluegrass State will not pass this session.

On the gambling front, Koenig put his efforts this year into passing legislation to keep historical horse racing (HHR) going at Kentucky racetracks. The games that operate like slot machines were under fire after a Kentucky Supreme Court ruling last year.

“The difference between sports betting and historical horse racing is that HHR had tangible jobs attached to it,” Koenig said. “This will have jobs, but no one is going to lose their job if it doesn’t pass.”

Possible reason for optimism in 2021

The House debate on historical horse racing illustrated the difficulty in passing Kentucky sports betting legislation.

For more than two hours, legislators spoke of their disdain for gambling. Some said they made a pledge when they took office never to support a gambling expansion.

However, Koenig offered one reason for hope. Out of all the people he’s talked with who voted for the HHR bill, they haven’t faced any fallout as a result.

“In horse racing parlance, I think we broke some maidens and hopefully that will result in a few more people willing to vote for sports betting. That there were no enduring issues from voting for HHR, I think that bodes well for sports betting’s chances next year.”

Will third time be the charm for Kentucky sports betting?

Last year, Koenig was optimistic about passing the gambling expansion bill. But as soon as he advanced it through committee, the Family Foundation of Kentucky began campaigning against it.

So this time, he decided that there was no reason to try to move H 241 through and stir everything up again.

This year was always going to be an uphill battle anyway. In odd years, Kentucky faces a shortened 30-day session and bills must pass by a three-fifths majority.

In even years, Kentucky has a longer session and the bill would only need a simple majority to pass.

“This year just took a lot of energy to get HHR done,” Koenig said. “To put folks through that again would have been a lot in a short session. I think we’ll be in better shape next year to focus on it.”

Photo by Dreamstime
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew has covered efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling since 2007. His reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. A USC journalism alum, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News and has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and

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