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Poll: Majority of Kentuckians favor legalizing sports betting

18th March, 17:53

A poll conducted last week showed a large majority of Kentuckians support legalizing sports betting to create new tax revenue, though legislation to do so remains stalled in Frankfort.

Public Opinion Strategies, the primary internal pollster for Republican campaigns in Kentucky, surveyed 500 registered voters and found 66% support changing state law to allow sports betting at horse race tracks, the Kentucky Speedway and on smart phone apps.

House Bill 137 would legalize and regulate such betting -- in addition to online poker and fantasy sports contest -- and direct most revenue to Kentucky's underfunded public pension plans. A financial analysis of the bill paid for by Keeneland estimated it would bring in $22.5 million of new annual tax revenue for the state.

When told that 95% of such tax revenue would be directed to public pensions, support among the survey respondents rose to 74% with only 24% opposed, according to the polling memo.

The survey was paid for by Kentucky Sports Betting Now, a new political advocacy group airing digital ads in support of HB 137 with the financial backing of horse tracks and the Kentucky Speedway.

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Though HB 137 cleared a House committee by a unanimous vote early in this year's session of the Kentucky General Assembly, it has since stalled and not been called for a vote on the chamber's floor.

The socially conservative faction of the Republican caucus -- with a supermajority in that chamber -- has objected to the bill based on their opposition to expanding gambling, while some want sports betting to be able to occur at different physical locations.

However, the survey showed even 62% of Republican respondents backed legalizing sports betting, not far behind the 69% of Democrats and 71% of independents indicating their support.

Beyond the public support indicated in the survey, HB 137 has the backing of a wide variety of political advocacy groups, including the Kentucky Education Association, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Greater Louisville Inc. and Kentucky Professional Fire Fighters.

Gov. Andy Beshear is also strongly supportive of the bill, as he included revenue from the measure in his two-year budget proposal unveiled in January, assuming the passage of HB 137.

However, the House Republican version of the budget passed out of the chamber two weeks ago did not include such revenue.

This story may be updated.