Will sports wagering ever be legal here? Don’t bet on it – The Interior Journal

Will sports betting ever be legal here? Don’t bet on it

Published Monday 30 January 2023 17:31


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What could you do with about $68 million? Better yet, what could Kentucky do with another $68 million?

The clear answer is: a lot.

That’s how much the state of Tennessee took in tax revenue from legal sports betting last year.

Of that $68 million, about 80 percent, or $54 million, goes to educational initiatives across Tennessee. Kentucky’s neighbor to the north, Ohio, just passed the legalization of sports betting during the last November election. It’s unclear how much revenue Ohio will generate from sports betting, but with a population of 12 million compared to Tennessee’s 7 million, it’s a safe bet (get it?) that Buckeye State will top $68 million.

Ohio law states that 98 percent of revenue generated from sports betting is spent on various public and non-public educational initiatives.

That’s a lot of money for Ohio schools.

In Indiana, where casinos have operated both on land and on water since the 1990s, legalized gambling of all kinds generated $58.5 million in tax revenue in December alone.

Although Kentucky’s population of 4.5 million is dwarfed by many of its neighbors, it is clear that there is money to be made, and that would be a good thing for Kentucky schools.

For years past, the bailout for Kentuckians when it came to the best and worst public education systems in the country was, “Well, at least there’s Mississippi,” to keep schools here from being ranked last dead.

Things are a little better now, but with a #36 ranking (yes, it’s subjective) from US News, there’s still room for improvement.

Additional revenue, and lots of it, won’t solve all the problems Kentucky schools face, but it will solve many of them by providing programs and resources that schools and teachers don’t currently have — and don’t have about their students. And that’s not the point, is it? The children of Kentucky who will become the state’s next generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs, scientists and physicians, elected leaders, parents and teachers? Shouldn’t the state focus on doing whatever it takes to give them the foundation they need to be successful in the future?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Is the state doing everything it can to achieve this goal?

The answer is an overwhelming hell of no.

Any time the subject of legalized sports betting in Kentucky comes up in Frankfurt, it doesn’t get shouted down. It’s completely ignored.

Robert Stivers has served as Kentucky Senate President for the past decade and is considered a major impediment to legalized gambling. Its district, Kentucky’s 25th, includes Clay, Jackson, Knox, McCreary, Owsley and Whitley counties, which are among the poorest in the state.

Various polls show that a majority of Kentuckians (65 percent to almost 75 percent, depending on the poll) support legalized gambling.

Every time the topic comes up in Frankfurt, it goes nowhere. No vote.

All because of a man.

If you keep voting the same people and the same policies, you eventually get what you deserve.

Kentucky’s historical heritage is associated with three unique industries: tobacco, Thoroughbred horse racing, and bourbon, none of which will ever be confused with Bible binders. It is ironic that a state embracing its historic ties to what many would consider vice would draw the line at “UK plus-13 in Tennessee.”

Will things ever change?

Don’t bet on it – oh wait, you can’t.

John Reitman is the regional editor at Bluegrass Newsmedia.

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