Kentucky Attorney General, Andy Beshear has urged state legislators to favorably consider the legalization of sports betting contained in a series of proposed gaming bills currently pending approval at the general assembly.
The reason for his position is a pragmatic response to a desperate budgetary shortfall which currently sees the state with a whopping $42.7 billion in unfunded liabilities. The belief is that legal Kentucky sports betting could solve those problems.
The fact that there is only sufficient funding available for 12.9% of the state’s future pension payments has prompted a serious revision of gaming policy, to the benefit of state gamers, who have thus far had to go to neighboring states of Indiana, Missouri, Illinois or West Virginia to participate in legal gaming.
With the exception of West Virginia sports betting, which is legal, it is important to note that all of these states are also working toward legalizing sports betting in 2019.
Expanded Gaming The Answer For Kentucky
Andy Beshear stated in a letter to the general assembly that:
The solution is not to cut legally promised benefits but to create a new dedicated stream of revenue solely for pensions. The answer is simple – expanded gaming.
Under his recommendations, sports betting, casinos, online poker and daily fantasy sports would all require urgent legalization and regulation as motivated in this piece from his letter:
Estimates show that Kentucky loses about $546 million in tax revenue per year to gaming in neighboring states. Moreover, in addition to the enactment of expanded gaming, legalized sports betting could add up to an additional $30 million to our coffers. The General Assembly should pass legislation to allow expanded gaming but dedicate all of the revenue to Kentucky pension systems until those systems are fully funded.
This is being viewed as a serious shot in the arm for all parties who have been pleading their case for legalized sports betting and other gaming opportunities in the state.
Kentucky sports betting has the potential to rake in $2.8 billion a year according to studies, and expanded gaming has the potential to enrich the Blue Grass State to the tune of a sweet $25.6 million in tax revenue annually. The other benefit of expanding gaming in the state is that it could boost jobs opportunities by at least another 2,000 jobs.
Beshear described the loss of potential income to legalized betting elsewhere as the “leaching of our Kentucky dollars” and urged lawmakers to hasten their efforts at dealing with two bills filed in 2018 – but which remain stuck in committees.
Kentucky Lawmakers At Odds On Legal Sports Betting
In June, a panel was created to deal with the question of sports betting specifically, but Senator Morgan McGarvey stalled matters saying that he saw no benefit in pre-filing a bill before the 2019 session.
Meanwhile, Governor Matt Bevin is opposed to the proposed legalization of casinos in the state. His chief of staff, Black Brickman, said that funding is not the sole problem that the state faces and that systemic reform was required to adequately deal with the challenges faced by the state.
Either way, the decisive move by Attorney General, Andy Beshear, is sending a loud and unequivocal message to lawmakers that gaming laws need to change in the state. It seem now to only be a question of how fast that change will come.