Just after the beginning of the year, the Commonwealth of Kentucky was moving forward with discussions regarding online gaming and poker in the state. It had been an abrupt turn for the state from its previous approaches to the controversial subject. Unfortunately, however, the discussion of online poker and gaming has been derailed by something that has derailed much of our everyday lives – the COVID-19 pandemic.
So Much Promise…
Actions in the Kentucky General Assembly were moving forward with rapidity after the election of new Governor Andy Beshear. In December 2019, State Representative Adam Koenig presented the House with a bill that would have opened a wealth of online options for Kentuckians to take part. Daily fantasy sports (DFS), sports betting, and online casino and poker options were all on the table under a bill that eventually became called HB 137.
Beshear was a major driver of this legislation, with both Koenig and the new Governor touting the need for such legislation. With sports betting open in other states surrounding Kentucky (including West Virginia and Tennessee) and DFS gaining traction in many locations, HB 137 was critical to making sure that Kentucky’s taxation coffers received their “piece of the pie.” Through the first couple of months under considerations, there were several amendments – and extensive lobbying – in reference to the bill as it was tweaked to attempt to garner the most support. In March, these amendments seemed to have reached a point in which the legislators were happy with the bill.
Then…the world changed.
…Dashed in a Moment
HB 137 was put forth on March 17, just as the entirety of the planet was realizing the seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak. The legislature was shut down and Beshear closed many state operations with a “state of emergency” declaration. Just as soon as the committee was ready to start hearings on the bill, it was pushed to the side for more pressing matters in the state.
The Kentucky General Assembly has since met sporadically, usually to put through critical legislation to aid the state’s citizens. No other bills have been brought forth as, rightly, the state’s elected officials are trying to alleviate the pressures on the common man at this time. The legislative session closed last week and, unless the state has a special session sometime later this year, no further legislation of any type – including HB 137.
What is in the Future?
While many have commented that this would be a perfect time for the government to come to its senses and regulate online gaming and poker, there is little that would support this assumption. Currently both the federal and state governments are trying to keep their citizens safe and keep their heads above water. This is considerably more important than passing legislation regarding an activity that, admittedly, would be highly controversial even in the best of times.
Such things as figuring out where the next meal is coming from, how to keep a roof over their heads and worrying about educating their kids is foremost on the minds of many around the world. While it might be nice to have a distraction of online gaming or poker (can’t really bet on sports right now as they are inactive), it isn’t foremost on people’s minds. Besides, with 26 million people filing for unemployment in the last month, it would honestly be the WORST time for states to try an enact an activity that would pull more money out of their constituent’s pockets.
While some states are moving forward with putting together their regulations for certain expansions of gaming, to start from zero probably is not the best idea right now. Thus, states like Kentucky are probably going to be waiting some time – economic and employment situations will have had to significantly improve even to consider it in 2021 – before they can light the fuse regarding online gaming expansion.