Kentucky Sports Betting: Gov. Andy Beshear Quickly Signs HB 551 Into Law

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It didn’t take long for Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear on Friday to make a decision on online sports betting. 

In less than 24 hours after receiving the approved legislation, Beshear signed House Bill 551 into law. The state Senate staged a vote Thursday and passed the bill to the governor’s office. 

The pending law is expected to be effective June 28 and state-wide sports betting could go live by September or October. 

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear Approves HB 551 

During a Friday press conference, Beshear said he had been waiting “for years” to legalize sports gambling in the Bluegrass State.  

“For years I believed it was time for Kentucky to join so many other states and pass sports betting,” Beshear said, as reported by “We talk about having a competitive business climate, but we did not have an important business that nearly every state surrounding us has. Our dollars were supporting Indiana, West Virginia, Ohio and other states. 

“After years of urging action, sports betting will be legal in Kentucky. We made it happen. This industry will bring new jobs, tourism and growth.” 

Entering the 30-day legislative session, some lawmakers who backed the proposal doubted there was enough time to push HB 551 through the House of Representatives and Senate with a two-thirds majority, let alone getting it signed and off the governor’s desk. 

Rep. Michael Meredith remained “cautiously optimistic.” 

Sen. Damon Thayer: ‘We Are A Sports-Crazy State’

Needing 23 votes, the state Senators buckled down during a 10-day veto break and Meredith worked the floor to achieve the needed vote total. 

The Senate on Thursday voted 25-12 in favor of HB 551, which plans to tax in-person betting at 9.75 percent and online wagering at 14.25 percent.

Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer said the state likely will establish 27 online sportsbooks, which could bring in approximately $23 million in annual tax revenue.

“We are a sports-crazy state,” Thayer said. “And people want to be able to make a choice of their own free will to make a wager on a sports event.”

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Jeff Hawkins is an award-winning sportswriter with more than four decades in the industry (print and digital media). A freelance writer/stay-at-home dad since 2008, Hawkins started his career with newspaper stints in Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, Upstate New York and Illinois, where he earned the 2004 APSE first-place award for column writing (under 40,000 circulation). As a beat writer, he covered NASCAR Winston Cup events at NHIS (1999-2003), the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks (2003-06) and the NFL's Carolina Panthers (2011-12). Hawkins penned four youth sports books, including a Michael Jordan biography. Hawkins' main hobbies include mountain bike riding, 5k trail runs at the Whitewater Center in Charlotte, N.C., and live music.

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