BREAKING: Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Clears Senate Committee for First Time

The push to legalize sports betting in Kentucky took a major step forward Wednesday morning. That’s when a bill to make the Bluegrass State the 37th in the country to accept live and online sports wagers easily passed through a state Senate committee.

Republican Kentucky State Rep. Michael Meredith (back) testifies with state Rep. Matt Koch (R) before the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee Wednesday in support of House Bill 551. Meredith is the lead sponsor of the bill to legalize sports betting across the state. (Image:

The Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee’s 9-1 vote on House Bill 551 now means the measure is a Senate floor vote away from likely becoming law. It’s widely expected that Gov. Andy Beshear (D) would sign the bill into law, especially since it was a major part of his campaign platform four years ago.

Wednesday’s hearing was the first time a Senate committee considered a sports betting bill. A bill passed in the House last year failed to get a hearing before the session ended.

Challenges to Passage Remain

While the lopsided committee vote even exceeded supporters’ expectations, a couple of significant hurdles still remain before Kentuckians no longer have to cross into one of the six neighboring states to wager legally.

First, the measure will need 23 “Yes” votes in the 37-member Senate to pass. That’s because of General Assembly rules that require any bill that generates revenue or allocates money to receive a three-fifths majority in odd-year sessions. The legislature passes two-year budgets in every even-year session.

Second, time is running out for the bill to be approved. Including Wednesday, there are four legislative days left in the session. What will help, possibly, is a veto recess period that starts on Friday. That will give bill sponsor state Rep. Michael Meredith (R-Oakland) and other supporters nearly two weeks to gain the support they need to pass it when lawmakers return on March 29-30 to conclude the 30-day session.

As he did after the House passed HB 551 by a nearly 2-to-1 margin on Monday, Meredith told reporters after the committee meeting that they’re still a couple of votes shy of the number needed to pass the bill.

If lawmakers approve the sports betting bill, Kentucky’s nine horse racing tracks would be able to offer brick-and-mortar sportsbooks at their locations. They could also partner with up to three mobile operators each.

This article will be updated.