Kentucky became the latest state to legalize sports betting when Governor Andy Beshear signed a bipartisan legislation into law. However, the governor’s desire to see sportsbooks operate in the state did not stop at that constitutional requirement.
Weeks after the law was passed, Governor Beshear multiplied efforts to ensure that sports betting had an early launch in Kentucky. As a result, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) released emergency regulations, scheduling the launch of retail and mobile sportsbooks for September 2023.
The Governor has now signed these emergency regulations and they include a provision for the establishment of a Kentucky Problem Gambling Assistance account. This fund will take a small chunk of the revenue gotten from sports betting to help citizens addicted to gambling in the state.
Not all legislators supported the legalization of sports betting in the Bluegrass State. Some conservative lawmakers argued that the introduction of sports betting in the state may increase the spate of gambling addiction.
Due to these concerns, the bill was amended to include the creation of a problem gambling fund. As promised when signing the bill into law, Governor Beshear and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission have now set up the account.
Providing justification for the fund, the governor explained that multiple states have both introduced sports betting and hastened their launch, with much success. He believes that the gambling assistance fund would solve the problem of addiction with the launch of sportsbooks underway. He was quoted to have said the following:
"It's intended both to provide help to those that are suffering and for the prevention and education side as well. We want to do this as safely as we can, and a bunch of other states have done it, so we're not reinventing the wheel."
Problem gambling statistics for Kentucky are sparse, but several researchers show that about 1% of the US population suffers from problem gambling. Having government revenue cater to the needs of these people would help stem the tide of addictions.
The funding for the problem gambling assistance account is to come from sports betting tax revenue. Specifically, 2.5% of the tax revenue generated through retail and online sports betting businesses would be directed towards the fund. This provision is already contained in the Kentucky sports betting law, HB 551.
However, the emergency regulations set out the procedure and criteria by which individuals and groups would be able to apply for and receive funding. The regulations also stipulate what type of responsible gaming measures can be introduced by regulators and operators.
Speaking about the importance of the fund and the emergency regulations, Gov. Beshear said:
“This regulation establishes the process for providing funds to this account, to support agencies, groups, organizations, and persons that are best able to help those who experience problem gambling. The funds can also be used to promote both awareness and education to reduce and prevent problem gambling and pay for the costs associated with treatment and recovery.”
The governor had earlier signed an executive order which established a Sports Wagering Advisory Council. He then re-emphasised that the order and the emergency regulations would operate side-by-side. More specifically, the Advisory Council would help promote the integrity of sports betting in the state.
No one is as optimistic as Gov. Beshear about the prospects of sports betting in his state. He projects that the launch of sports betting would generate around $24 million gross annual revenue for the state.
“It means more dollars for our pensions for hardworking law enforcement, for teachers, firefighters, and other public servants. These are investments that we all want, and those hardworking individuals deserve,” Gov. Beshear said about the projected sports betting revenue.