An unabashed horse racing guy at heart, Kentucky Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer used a racetrack analogy to describe the status of the bill that would legalize sports betting in the Bluegrass State.
“It’s still a longshot, but at least it’s still in the race,” Thayer said.
So, when HB 606 (which also would legalize online poker and daily fantasy sports) got its first read in the Senate on Tuesday — a procedural move on the path to a floor vote — Thayer saw greater significance.
“A bill getting a reading keeps it alive to live another day,” he said. “It will get a second reading on Wednesday, and if enough support builds for it, we could pass it on April 13 or April 14.”
The reason HB 606 won’t be considered for a vote for another couple weeks is because a 10-day veto period begins Thursday and ends April 12. It also has to be supported out of committee, but its biggest hurdle to passage, according to Thayer, is in the form of Republican senators from “rural areas, mostly for religious reasons.” He also said recent comments from Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers would be “difficult to overcome.”
After the Kentucky House approved HB 607 by a 58-30 vote March 18, Stivers indicated the bill lacked support in the Senate.
“To say that it’s a tax generator, it’s not,” Stivers said March 18. “I think it’s just a small item on a menu for entertainment. So, it really created no energy with me. I just don’t think that there’s a lot of support for it and that there is much energy in my caucus or on this floor about that issue.”
Republicans have commanding control of the Senate, as 30 of the 38 senators are GOP members. In December, Thayer said if Rep. Adam Koenig, who sponsored the bill, could get it out of the House, he would support it, but that “if I had to make a prediction, it would be that we’ll be one of the last states to do it.”
Plenty of work ahead to get bill through Senate
Koenig said March 22 he is “working” the bill in the Senate, meaning he is “trying to get in front of as many senators as I can” to inform them on the bill and the issues it is trying to address. Thayer said Tuesday that the veto period would give Koenig and other supporters the opportunity to sway senators opposed or on the fence.
HB 609, a bill to fund problem gambling programs in the state with $50 million from a settlement with Flutter over PokerStars, also got a first read in the Senate on Tuesday. It passed the House with a vote of 84-14.