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Keep gambling money home to help our state

To those who oppose legalized sports betting in Kentucky on moral grounds, we say with utmost respect: That horse left the barn more than a century ago.

Since pari-mutuel betting was introduced at the Kentucky Derby in 1908, commonwealth residents have been wagering their money on sporting events with the state’s blessing. The thoroughbred industry now generates $115 million annually in tax revenue, which Kentucky lawmakers are happy to spend.

Curiously, though, many of the same lawmakers now want to block another form of gambling — on humans rather than horses — because it’s sinful.

“If you think about when we depend on the people of our districts to lose money so the state can gain money, it’s not biblical, first of all,” Republican Rep. Chris Fugate, R-Chavies. “It’s against the Bible. It’s morally wrong.”

Fugate would have more credibility on the morality front if he offered a bill to outlaw horse racing — and its $4 billion annual impact on Kentucky’s economy. Since that’s not happening, lawmakers would be wise to drop the double standard and begin capturing needed revenue from an activity that many Kentuckians are going to do regardless: wager on college and pro sports.

A bill to legalize sports betting breezed through a House committee last month but still hasn’t received a vote by the full House. Speaker David Osborne, a supporter, cites division among Republicans for not bringing the bill to the House floor. Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer predicts it would pass the Senate.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear estimates that sports betting, which is already legal in some 20 states, would generate about $25 million per year to help fund public pensions, health care and public schools. It has bipartisan support, including from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

Under the measure, people could place sports bets at Kentucky’s horse racetracks and at the Kentucky Speedway or online through an app downloaded at the tracks, according to The Associated Press.

“Like it or not, residents from every community in the commonwealth are already betting on sports, either illegally through bookies or online, or legally crossing our border,” said Rep. Al Gentry, D-Louisville.

We agree. It’s time to keep that money at home and tax it for the benefit of all Kentuckians.

The State Journal

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