Sports gambling moving forward

Published 9:37 am Thursday, February 21, 2019

It appears the push to legalize sports gambling in Kentucky has legs.

The Associated Press reported that an analysis of a proposal to legalize sports betting in Kentucky says it could generate about $20 million per year in tax money.

House bill 175 would tax sports betting in Kentucky at 10.25 percent for in-person wagers and 14.25 percent for wagers made online. An analysis by Commonwealth Economics said the proposal would generate $20.2 million each year. The proposal would not allow betting on sporting events involving Kentucky colleges and universities.

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The proposal would require lawmakers spend the money on regulating the industry and addiction prevention services. Whatever is left over would go to the state’s troubled public pension systems.

Republican Rep. Adam Koenig is sponsoring the bill. He said people are “crying out” to be able to bet on sports.

A report on Murray State University’s public radio news service quotes Democratic State Sen. Julian Carroll of Franklin County as saying:

“Sports betting is legal in Kentucky now. The only thing is it’s unregulated. There’s no collection of taxes for the state and there’s no regulation of it to protect the public interest.”

We agree. We’ve made our position known on this: we support sports gambling in Kentucky if the following measures are taken — it is properly regulated, the appropriate resources are dedicated to those who have a problem with gambling, and that remaining revenues are devoted to pensions or the public education system. We also like the idea that Kentucky residents can’t bet on sporting events unfolding within the Commonwealth. Seems very reasonable and wise to us.

We also think it is important to note this single measure will not solve all the state’s revenue problems. The Associated Press said states that have legalized sports gambling have not realized windfalls. In Nevada, revenue from sports betting has accounted for roughly one half of 1 percent of the entire state budget.

“Everything I’ve seen so far suggests that this would not be what one would consider to be a pot of gold,” said Ohio state Sen. John Eklund, a Republican who introduced legislation to legalize sports betting in his state.

Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia legalized sports betting last year after the Supreme Court decision, as did the District of Columbia. Although New Mexico has not passed a sports betting law, the Santa Ana Star Casino &Hotel started taking bets in October through a tribal gambling compact.

Lawmakers in Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia have also filed bills to allow sports betting.

Again, this won’t solve all of Kentucky’s problems but every dollar helps in a state where the unfunded pension obligations are $40 billion and counting. And, the question becomes, does Kentucky want to capture that tax revenue or does it want to stick its head in the sand and pretend that those who really want to bet on sports aren’t already doing it?

The answer to the question, in our view, is obvious. Kentucky would be wise to move forward on this proposal and any other that holds the potential to capture new revenue for the state without raising taxes on residents already paying their fair share for government services.

The Daily Independent of Ashland