Kentucky Approves Budget, But Sports Betting Has To Wait

Kentucky Approves Budget, But Sports Betting Has To Wait
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Sports betting won’t be coming to Kentucky this year.

State lawmakers on Wednesday passed a streamlined one-year budget that keeps government spending at current levels, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. It didn't include a new revenue stream that sports betting legislation could have added. The General Assembly moved quickly to prepare the budget amid the coronavirus pandemic and the toll it has taken on everyday life across the U.S.

RELATED: Learn more about gambling in Kentucky

The Senate unanimously passed the budget, 34-0, Wednesday morning, before the House took it up in the afternoon and approved it 80-10, according to reports. It now goes to Gov. Andy Beshear for his signature.

Legalized sports betting was a casualty of the one-year budget, as were other important items like increased education funding and pay raises for teachers and state employees, the Herald-Leader reported. Beshear’s win in November was seen as a boost to gambling supporters. He not only backed sports betting, but wanted to see casino gaming added in a state without even one brick-and-mortar casino. Gambling had been limited to horse racing wagering in the home of the Kentucky Derby.

Recent polling showed that residents supported expanding gambling options in the state. But conservative and religious groups in Kentucky historically have opposed gambling in all forms.

Beshear, a Democrat, in early February joined Rep. Adam Koenig, a Republican, in touting sports betting legislation — House Bill 137 — the Associated Press reported. The governor said he did not want his residents to continue to visit neighboring states like Indiana and West Virginia to place sports bets. Illinois took its first sports bet in March, and Virginia and Tennessee have approved sports betting legislation. It’s also being considered in Missouri and Ohio.

“I am tired of trailing other states,” Beshear said at the Feb. 6 news conference, according to the AP. “It’s time that we get into this game and we make sure that we are keeping these dollars at home.”

In a normal year, the General Assembly would pass a two-year budget through June 2022, according to the Herald-Leader. The uncertainty of future revenue because of the coronavirus made budget projections nearly impossible, so lawmakers decided on a one-year budget.

Having just the one-year budget should allow lawmakers to resurrect sports betting legislation in 2021.