Why Should Kentucky Legalize Sports Betting? It’s Fun

Sports Betting at a Las Vegas Casino” by G0SUB is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Gabe Cripe, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

I. Introduction

When sports betting becomes legal in Ohio,[1] those who live in Northern Kentucky will have to drive across the river to place their bets. This is because, despite widespread support for sports betting in Kentucky,[2] the Republican-controlled Kentucky legislature continues to resist the will of the people.

II. Background

Legalized sports betting moved through the Kentucky legislature in the form of House Bill 606.[3] The Bill had bi-partisan support with primary sponsor, Republican Adam Koenig, four Republican co-sponsors and three Democratic co-sponsors.[4] On March 18, the bill rather easily passed through the House with a vote of 58-30. Every Democrat and a slight majority of Republicans voted in favor.[5]

After moving to the Senate, the bill needed just 20 of the 38 Senators to support it.[6] Eight of the 38 Senators were Democrats and were widely to known to support the bill.[7] Of the 28 Republicans, 10 were known to be against sports betting.[8] This left the fate of sports betting in Kentucky in the hands of 18 Republican Senators, with 12 more supporters needed to pass the bill.

But on April 14, the last day of the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly session, HB 606 died without receiving a vote by the full Senate.[9] On the final day, the bill was first assigned to the Licensing and Occupations Committee.[10] After it seemed it was unlikely to pass there, the bill was moved to the Senate Economic Committee, but the chair of this committee said the bill did not have the votes to make it out of committee there either and the bill died without ever receiving a full vote.[11]

Governor Andy Beshear, an outspoken supporter of sports betting, blamed Senate Majority Leader, Damon Thayer, saying, “If Damon Thayer wanted sports betting to pass, he’d get it passed.”[12] Thayer shot back on Twitter writing, “I support #sportsbetting but I can’t make people vote yes if they are opposed.”[13] Some speculated the bill had the votes in the Senate but that Senate leaders refused to bring it for a full vote unless a majority of Republicans supported it.[14] Koenig believed actual support for the bill was even higher stating, “If it was a secret ballot on the Senate floor, It would probably pass 28-10, but we don’t do votes in secret.”[15]

Polling shows that sports betting is widely popular in Kentucky. A poll from Western Kentucky University showed that 73% of Kentuckians support sports betting in the state.[16] Of Republicans polled, 70% supported sports betting.[17] Even 64% of individuals 65 and older were in support.[18] A separate poll from Public Opinion Strategies reached a similar conclusion with 58% of Republicans, 69% of Democrats and 81% of Independents supporting sports betting in Kentucky.[19] This poll showed 60% of 2020 Donald Trump voters were in support.[20] Despite this support, even from their own party, Republicans in the Kentucky Senate refused to listen.

III. Discussion

This article could analyze several different benefits to sports betting. It could argue that sports betting will bring in much needed revenue to a state that has the fifth highest poverty rate in the country.[21] After all, supporters estimate that sports betting would bring Kentucky an additional $25 million annually.[22] It could argue it would bring in much needed jobs in the form of casino workers, sportsbook oddsmakers, analysts, cashiers, and security.[23] It could point out the hypocrisy of legislatures who oppose sports betting but embrace horse betting.[24] Or it could respond to the (ridiculous) argument by opponents that sports betting “opens the door for throwing of games due to the hugh (sic) amount of money involved.”[25] But this article will leave those arguments for a more serious article and a more intelligent author.

Instead, this article will make a novel argument for why Kentucky should allow sports betting: it’s fun. Sometimes, it should just be as simple as that. Sports betting is fun, and we should let Kentuckians do things that are fun and do not hurt anyone. When the Cincinnati Reds are 20 games under .500 at the trade deadline, Cincinnati sports fans on the south side of the river should be able to watch their favorite team with an added rooting interest by placing a responsibly sized wager on Joey Votto to reach base over 1.5 times. When the Bengals are up three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, Bengals fans should be able to continue watching with passion, rooting for the Bengals team 33.5 point over to hit. When one of their favorite teams are not playing, people should be able to turn on the television on a Tuesday night and root for the Ohio Bobcats and the Central Michigan Chippewas to combine for over 57.5 points. Why? Because it’s fun and no one will get hurt.

IV. Conclusion

After a long stressful day, some people exercise, some people journal, and some people meditate. Others just want to lay on the couch and root for their favorite sports team or turn a game they do not care about into one they do with a responsibly sized bet. But in Kentucky, they cannot. At least those who live in Northern Kentucky, and work in Ohio, can spend a little extra time in the parking lot after work placing their bets before driving home. They’ll stay longer in Ohio and their tax dollars will too.

[1] Ben Halls, Ohio Sports Betting: Launch Expected in 2023, New York Post (Apr. 1, 2022, 6:03 AM), https://nypost.com/article/best-ohio-sports-betting-sites/.

[2] John Reecer, New Poll Shows Majority of Kentuckians Support Sports Betting, Bowling Green Daily News (Mar. 10, 2022), https://www.bgdailynews.com/news/new-poll-shows-majority-of-kentuckians-support-sports-betting/article_4724e785-d3cc-5538-a6c4-85390447efe6.html.

[3] House Bill 606, Kentucky Gen. Assembly, https://legiscan.com/KY/votes/HB606/2022, (last visited April 21, 2022).

[4] Id.

[5] Joe Sonka, Bills to Legalize Sports Betting and Ban Gray Machines Pass Kentucky House, Louisville Courier J. (Mar. 18, 2022, 2:31 PM), https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/ky-general-assembly/2022/03/17/kentucky-general-assembly-gambling-sports-pari-mutuel-wagering/7060142001/

[6] Jeremy Balan, Will Kentucky’s Senate Pass the Sports Betting Bill This Week?, SportsHandle (Apr. 11, 2022),  https://sportshandle.com/will-kentucky-senate-pass-sports-betting-bill/.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Mark Payne, How Sports Betting Legislation Died in the Kentucky Senate, LINKNKY, (Apr. 15, 2022), https://linknky.com/kentucky/frankfort/2022/04/15/how-sports-betting-legislation-died-in-the-kentucky-senate/.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Pat Evans, Churchill Frowns: Kentucky Sports Betting Bill Dies Again, Legal Sports Rep. (Apr. 19, 2022), https://www.legalsportsreport.com/68363/bill-dead-2022-kentucky-sports-betting/.

[13] Damon Thayer (@damon_thayer), Twitter (Apr. 14, 2022, 6:22 PM), https://twitter.com/damon_thayer/status/1514730909668454401.

[14] Payne, supra note 9.

[15] Balan, supra note 6.

[16] Reecer, supra note 2.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Balan, supra note 6.

[20] Id.

[21] Ronnie Ellis, Kentucky Poverty Rate Improving, Still Among Worst Though, Richmond Reg. (Sept. 2018), https://www.richmondregister.com/news/kentucky-poverty-rate-improving-still-among-worst-though/article_71a9218b-3928-5ae7-b5e9-ce138c96678d.html.

[22] Chet Fussman, Kentucky Sports Betting: Legal Sports Betting in KY, Miami Herald (Apr. 19, 2022, 12:30 PM), https://www.miamiherald.com/betting/article260519052.html.

[23] Sports Betting Q&A, Rotowire, https://www.rotowire.com/betting/faq/question.php?q=who-benefits-from-sports-betting-b6de3628 (last visited Apr. 21, 2022).

[24] Daniella Saitta, Legislative Push to Legalize Sports Betting in Kentucky, WTVQ (Oct. 18, 2021), https://www.wtvq.com/bill-to-make-sports-betting-legal-in-kentucky-will-be-brought-up-in-january/.

[25] Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio), Twitter (Apr. 14, 2022, 3:07 PM), https://twitter.com/kysportsradio/status/1514681888715292683?s=21&t=XEqpfHTWcsGY7IC-RItr4Q.


  • Prior to law school, Gabe worked for organizations that provided support to survivors of gender based violence in Bloomington, IL and Cincinnati. During law school, he has worked or volunteered for the Ohio Innocence Project and the Hamilton County Municipal Court Help Center. These experiences have motivated him to write articles advocating for legal reforms that benefit society’s most vulnerable, including bail reform, Ohio’s Spousal Exemption for sexual assault, and greater access to post-conviction relief for the wrongfully convicted. Gabe lives in Newport, KY with his wife, Jessica, a nurse at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

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