Kentucky Gov. pushes for quick launch of sports betting, GOP candidate proposes redirecting revenue to school safety

Kentucky Governor, Andy Beshear, has promised to accelerate the process of legalizing sports betting in the state, with the aim of having the system set up in time for the upcoming NFL season. Meanwhile, the Republican candidate for governor, Alan Keck, has proposed redirecting most of the tax money collected from sports betting to bolster school safety.

The bill to legalize sports betting won final passage in the state’s GOP-dominated legislature after years of failure. Beshear signed the bill soon after it reached his desk. Attention now turns to the grind of setting up the framework to regulate sports wagering. 

“The people are really excited about this, so we want to get it up and going as quickly as we can but also to do it right,” Beshear said at his weekly news conference Friday, as reported by the Associated Press.

Lawmakers assigned the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to regulate sports betting operations. In setting up its system, Kentucky will examine the “best practices” used in other states with established sporting betting operations, the governor said.

Governor Beshear has not offered specific dates for launching sports betting in the state but has pointed to the start of the NFL season when discussing the timetable in broad terms. “I would really like to have it ahead of that first NFL game, knowing that that is a big starting date for people,” the governor said, as reported by the above-mentioned media.

The NFL’s regular season opens in early September, which is also when the fall campaign for governor will be heating up. The formal launch of sports betting is certain to get considerable statewide attention, and Beshear’s supporters see it as a big win for the governor, who advocated for legal sports betting for years.

Meanwhile, Keck has proposed a plan to funnel future sports betting revenues into school safety initiatives. “There is simply nothing more important than ensuring that our kids, our teachers, and our administrators get home safe every day,” Keck said while unveiling his plan on social media. Keck has also proposed policies to encourage military veterans to serve as school resource officers to help bolster security in Kentucky schools. 

Alan Keck

Kentucky’s nine horse racing tracks may be licensed as sports betting facilities for a $500,000 upfront fee and an annual renewal cost of $50,000. Participating tracks can contract with up to three service providers for sports wagering services, which would give Kentuckians as many as 27 sportsbook options. Service providers will have to pay $50,000 for an initial license and $10,000 a year to renew. 

After Beshear’s signature, Kentucky has now become the 38th state to legalize sports betting, with the law going into effect on June 28. Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said HB 551 might bring in an estimated $23 million in annual tax revenue and licensing fees, adding that Tennessee’s sports betting law brought in $68 million of revenue last year. However, some supporters suggest that the estimate is low.

Twelve candidates in all are competing for the Republican nomination for governor in Kentucky’s May primary. Beshear is seeking reelection to a second term in a campaign drawing national attention to see if the popular incumbent can overcome his party’s struggles in the GOP-trending state.