While people continue to watch hotspots like California, Florida, or Texas as the next breakthrough in online casino gaming, daily fantasy sports (DFS) and online poker, the real state to watch may be Kentucky. Plenty of online gaming organizations are putting their efforts into lobbying legislators in the Bluegrass State, only trailing the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce in money spent in the state.
January Spending for Lobbying Sports Betting Rules the Chart
The Louisville Courier Journal writer Joe Sonka tracked the spending by lobbyists in the Commonwealth’s General Assembly. Sonka noted that, for the first month of 2020 alone, more than $2.5 million was spent by numerous organizations and for a variety of reasons. One reason that continued to stand out more than most, however, was the politicking for Kentucky to pass online gaming regulations for the state.
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce was the leader among those lobbying, and for good reason. A Chamber of Commerce, whether it is for a city or a state, is looking to push business interests that will improve the business climate of the state and/or city they represent. Still, of the $55,465 spent in the month of January by the Chamber of Commerce, Sonka stated that the Commerce was supporting such a varied slate of bills as prison reform, transportation infrastructure spending and legalizing sports betting in the state.
Notably second on the list in Kentucky for lobbyist spending was Kentucky Speedway. The racetrack, which hosts NASCAR racing in the state, is pushing hard for the passage of HB 137, the bill that has been presented in the Kentucky House that would regulate sports betting, fantasy sports and online poker for Kentuckians. HB 137 would give the rights to host such action only to the racetrack and six horse racing facilities in the state, making the $50,560 that Kentucky Raceway spent look like a pittance to what windfall they could potentially get.
While FanDuel is one of the biggest names in the DFS world, it isn’t one that you’d think of when it comes to lobbying. But FanDuel has been prodding the politicians in Frankfort to pass DFS legislation to the tune of $21,580 in January (surprisingly, DraftKings does not show up on the roster). Other gaming outlets that have been in support of the expansion of gaming including Kentucky Downs, Keeneland and Churchill Downs, the track which hosts the venerable Kentucky Derby and has deep roots in horse wagering in the state.
How One Election Changed the Course in Kentucky
Prior to 2019, Kentucky actually had a very hostile attitude towards online gaming and poker. The then-governor of the state, Matt Bevin, took a neutral stance but talked down any expansion of gaming on moral reasons. The Democratic candidate for Governor, Attorney General Andy Beshear, was more open minded towards expanding online gaming in the state, looking to the revenues to fund pension reform. In the 2019 elections, the citizens of Kentucky chose Beshear and the floodgates opened.
HB 137 was proposed by State Representative Adam Koenig, who was able to get the bill through committee in the House but has since bogged down in the political process. After the passage out of committee in January, there has been no action as to a full House vote nor action to move forward in the Senate. This is despite studies that have been shown that revenues from online poker, sports betting and online casino gaming in the Bluegrass State would be around $22 million per year, thus the reason that the Chamber of Commerce, Kentucky Speedway, the horse tracks and FanDuel are all lobbying for passage of regulations.