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Sports wagering legislation makes the transition into law in Kentucky

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer Explains the Sports Wagering Bill 03-30-23
Stu Johnson
Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer Explains the Sports Wagering Bill 03-30-23

The multi-session push to legalize wagering on college and professional sports got to the finish line this week. The Senate, by a slim two vote margin, approved the measure Thursday. It was a debated item off and on the Senate floor. Even during the morning of the last legislative day, proponents said the party caucus vote was close. Hazard Senator Brandon Smith said he was one who went from a "no" to a "yes."

“I have made a pretty hard case against this bill at home. But, I will tell you I’ve come up short. The voters of my new district want to be able to have this freedom,” said Smith.

The behind-the-scenes discussions, particularly within the Kentucky Senate GOP caucus, included a focus on whether or not to approve sports wagering. Gambling bills often bring out emotional debate. That was the case with Fruit Hill Senator Whitney Westerfield, who voted no.

“And we can talk about how this is going to go help the pensions…we want to pay for our state retirees from the losses of our people? And again I want you to think about it before you cast your vote…how much money do people in Kentucky have to lose before we gain?” asked Westerfield.

Also in the "no" vote column was northern Kentucky Senator John Schickel. He called it a hyper-gambling environment and expressed concern, particularly about betting on college sports.

During the roll call vote, Louisville Senator Karen Berg said she appreciated Westerfield’s argument, but added she didn’t feel she was elected to be the morality police. Berg went on to say she didn’t think it’s her place to tell people how they can spend their own money.

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The Associated Press
Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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