Time to legalize sports betting in Kentucky

Published 8:07 am Wednesday, March 2, 2022

This map provided by the American Gambling Association shows the status of legalized sports betting in the United States. Currently 30 states have legalized sports betting, with three others legal but not yet operational.

Kentuckians could get another shot at sports betting if one legislator has his way, and I hope he does.

Republican Rep. Adam Koenig, which serves District 69 that includes parts of Boone and Kenton counties, introduced a bill Monday that would make it legal for Kentuckians to “do what they would like to do with their own money,” according to a quote from Koenig by the Associated Press.

Personally, I’m ready for sports betting to arrive in Kentucky. Our state offers many other forms of gambling, including betting on horse racing and playing the lottery. We even have gaming at and near some of our horse racing tracks that is done on slot machines that are supposedly based on past horse races. Still, somehow we are one state refusing to allow sports betting while many around us have legalized it.

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If a person wants to put a bet on a sporting event, personally I don’t see the harm. As a sports fan, I’ll admit that I bet on sports from time to time, and it’s a form of entertainment to me, the same as going to the movies or any other activity on which I may choose to spend my money. I have control and I know what I can afford to spend, and I don’t exceed that amount.

My son and I are sports fans, and from time to time we attend NBA games in Indianapolis. As soon as you cross the river from Louisville into Indiana, you are in legal sports betting territory, and that’s when we place our bets through Barstool Sportsbook, one of the many popular online portals for sports betting. For us it’s simply a way to add some fun to the game we are attending. Not only can you bet on which team will win, or by how many points they will win, you can also place proposition bets, also known as prop bets. Instead of picking the winner of the game, you can wager on things such as which player will score the first points of the game, whether a particular player will score a certain number of points in the game, whether the first basket scored will be a 3-pointer, and much more. It adds to the entertainment value, and sometimes you win a few dollars in the process.

When using the online betting system, we simply place money into our online account with Barstool, then place our wagers. The bets must be placed, and the collections must be done in a state where it’s legal, so we always make sure to cash in our winnings before getting back across the state line into Kentucky.

If you don’t want to bet on your mobile device, you can visit casinos like the Caesar’s casino in New Albany, Indiana. It’s just minutes across the river from Louisville, and it also has a sportsbook where you can place bets on sporting events, no different than the sportsbooks in Las Vegas or Atlantic City.

I’ve heard many people make the argument that gambling is a gateway for people who are already facing financial issues to worsen their situation if they bet money they can’t afford to lose. While that may be true, it is also true of other betting options that are legal here in Kentucky, such as the lottery. Have you ever stood in line behind someone in a convenience store and watched them purchase a large number of lottery tickets, playing their “lucky numbers” once again while going up against odds that are millions to one that they will win? I’ve seen it many times, and I’ve always wondered, if those numbers are so lucky, why haven’t you won yet?

As the odds go, with sports betting you have a much better chance of placing a winning bet. Will a team win or lose? There are only a couple of options. The same goes for many of the other bets that can be placed on sports. With the lottery, you’re almost guaranteed to lose on Powerball, Megamillions, and other games that offer those gamblers the chance to become an instant multi-millionaire. It rarely happens.

Regardless, if an adult wants to spend their money placing a bet, they should be allowed to do so. Our government simply can’t legislate good decisions and smart spending, and they should not attempt to do so.

In addition to adults being allowed to make their own decisions with their money, they could also benefit our state in the process if sports betting was legalized. Currently states all around Kentucky (Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia) offer legalized sports betting, and those who want to do it will make the trip across the border and place their bets, and those states will benefit, while Kentucky will continue to lose out on potential revenue.

According to the Associated Press report announcing Koenig’s bill, supporters of previous bills have estimated that legalizing sports wagering would generate about $22 million in yearly revenue. I’m sure our state could find somewhere to put that money to use. Much of it is already being spent in our neighboring states, so why not keep it at home?

The bill unveiled Monday seeks to legalize most forms of sports wagering and regulate the taxation of all online gambling, including fantasy sports and online poker.

Legalizing sports betting would “take it away from the bookies and the off-shore accounts,” Koenig said.

I couldn’t agree more. Let’s keep that money at home here in Kentucky and stop giving it to other states. It’s time to legalize sports betting in Kentucky.

Jeff Moreland is regional editor of Bluegrass Newsmedia.