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Kentucky Moves to Legalize Online Poker and Sports Betting

February 13, 2019

A US state with a long history of gambling opposition has taken steps to legalize online poker and sports betting. Legislators in Kentucky have introduced HB 175. The bill would make it legal for Kentucky residents that are over the age of 18 to play poker while those 21 or older would be allowed to bet sports online for real money. 

The bill was co-sponsored by 15 lawmakers. It calls for the Kentucky Lottery Commission to oversee online poker and sports betting in the state. The move comes as a surprise to many individuals. Kentucky has long taken a strong stance against gambling. The state has no live casinos. Yet, despite the opposition to casino gambling, Kentucky has allowed horse racing betting for many years and is the home of the Kentucky Derby. 

The bill establishes taxation guidelines for operators who would provide online gambling. The rate for online poker would be 6.75 percent while online sports betting would be taxed at 14.25 percent. A lower tax rate of 10.25 percent would apply to sports wagers placed at a live facility. 

Those who wish to operate online betting venues would also be required to put up $1 million for the issuance of a gaming license. 

A growing number of US states are pursuing the legalization of online poker and online sports betting. West Virginia and New York currently have online poker legislation in the works. Numerous states are now in the process of implementing online sports betting. The rush to legalize online gaming has been spurred by a 2018 federal government decision which empowered states to make their own decisions on the legality of online gaming. 

Kentucky has provisions in its state laws dating to 1783 that provide exemptions for horse betting and a state lottery. Still, the state has previously been resistant to any other types of gambling. This move may be an indicator of a willingness to permit online gambling in the US on a national scale. Pennsylvania is currently in the process of licensing online gaming operators, and New Jersey and Nevada continue to earn huge revenues from online gambling. 

Lawmakers have been forced to show tolerance to online poker and sports betting in many jurisdictions because the legislation has the potential to generate much-needed revenues. Many states are turning to online gambling in an effort to resolve budget issues.


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