Kentucky GOP legislators confirm online poker to be dropped from gambling expansion measure

Haley Hintze
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Posted on: February 9, 2023 8:09 am EST

Kentucky’s state legislature will soon consider a gambling measure that drop online poker as an offering in favor of a sports-betting-only approach, according to news outlets in the Bluegrass State. Leaders in the state’s Republican-majority chambers have confirmed that despite its inclusion in a bill floated last month by Democratic lawmakers, online poker will again be dropped from 2023 consideration.

Lexington news outlet LEX 18 reported this week that State Sen. Damon Thayer, the Majority Floor Leader, is working with State Rep. Michael Meredith to craft a narrow-focused sports-betting bill that has a chance to clear entrenched anti-gambling opposition this year. The legislators are “taking out some of the other extraneous things like fantasy sports and online poker that were in the previous bill,” Thayer told the outlet.

The news regarding online poker’s removal from the state’s plans for 2023 wasn’t a surprise. In early January, three Democratic legislators introduced HB 106, a more expansive bill that would have authorized several forms of online gambling, including sports betting, fantasy sports, and online poker. Yet HB 106 was widely viewed by political observers as little more than a signal that Kentucky’s Democratic minority was willing to work across the aisle to move a gambling bill this session.

Online poker in particular has been a tough sell in Kentucky, and it was never the state’s focus, according to Thayer. “We’re a sports-crazy state. We love our sports. We have a long history and tradition of betting on horses in Kentucky. And I see [sports betting] as an extension of that, and I think most people do too,” he told LEX 18.

An additional contributing factor in narrowing the focus to only sports betting is that any bill faces a higher voting threshold in odd-numbered years, when the state’s senate is in session for only 30 days at a time. A sports-betting bill already failed to pass the Kentucky House last year, despite the lower threshold, meaning that Thayer and the other sports-betting backers are striving to eliminate as much baggage as possible from the upcoming proposal.