Arkansas and Kentucky Stepping Up as Potential Sports Betting States

Arkansas and Kentucky just might become the next states to legalize sports betting. A ballot measure seeking to expand casino gambling and authorize sports betting in Arkansas is likely to show up on the November ballot and let the voters decide if they’d like to let the new casinos offer sports wagers.

The Arkansas sports betting initiative has passed its first test, but faces additional hurdles in the run-up to the November 6 general election. Two lawsuits have been filed in recent days to prevent the measure from appearing on November’s ballot.

Meanwhile, Kentucky Lawmakers are optimistic they’ll be able to pass some sort of sports betting legalization bill in the upcoming session this January. Two senators, one from each side of the aisle, have now confirmed they are crafting legislation to legalize sports betting in Kentucky and both are optimistic on the bill’s chances of passing.

Latest Updates on the Arkansas Sports Betting Initiative

Arkansas was not among a list of 32 states predicted to be among the first to legalize sports betting within five years in a widely-cited report released last year, but has jumped up a few places in line thanks to a petition drive that recently collected enough signatures to qualify for a spot on the November ballot.

A committee called Driving Arkansas Forward has collected about 137,000 signatures from registered voters in Arkansas, well more than the nearly 85,000 needed to qualify for a ballot measure. The Arkansas Secretary of State’s office approved the measure last week to appear on the ballot in November.

The petition, which is called Issue 4, will ask Arkansas voters if they want to authorize the Oaklawn and Southland racetracks to add live table games and sports betting to their existing collections of electronic table games. Additionally, Issue 4 seeks to allow the Arkansas Racing Commission to authorize two new casinos – one in Jefferson County and one in Pope County.

Two lawsuits have been filed since the measure was approved by the Secretary of State. Both lawsuits ask the Arkansas Supreme Court to pull the measure from the November ballot. Both lawsuits claim the amendment is misleading and fails to divulge important information to voters.

Arkansas is now in play as a potential sports betting state, but the lawsuits and actual vote are still major hurdles that must be overcome. If Issue 4 can survive the lawsuits and receive a favorable vote in November, Arkansans will potentially have their choice for four sportsbooks across the state.

Kentucky Lawmakers Confident of Sports Betting Legalization

Kentucky has also joined the shortlist of states that may legalize sports betting in the near future.

Republican State Senator Damon Thayer spoke at the recent Sports Wagering and Impact on Horse Racing Symposium co-hosted by Blood Horse magazine and told the audience there that bipartisan sports betting legislation is being crafted in anticipation of the 30-day legislative session that starts on January 8th of 2019.

Damon Thayer reportedly told Blood Horse that he believes “we can put together a group of Democrats and Republicans to pass this bill. I don’t want us to be one of the last states to pass sports wagering. I want us to be one of the first 10 states to pass sports wagering, and I want it to support the horse industry.”

The bit about bipartisan support rings true. Last month, Democrat State Senator Morgan McGarvey revealed lawmakers are working on a sports betting bill in Kentucky. He said at the time that he believes the odds of passing sports betting during the next legislative session are “good.”

Both senators seem to be on the same page regarding the bill’s effects and odds of passing. Both are optimistic the bill can pass in January, but both have also made sure to temper revenue expectations.

Senator McGarvey said last month that sports betting “is not a panacea. It’s not going to cure all of Kentucky’s financial woes. But it is a way to get some money coming to already depleted coffers.” More recently, Senator Thayer told attendees of the symposium that he doesn’t believe sports betting revenue would match the revenue generated by slot machines, but may match other revenue generated by casinos.

Senator McGarvey also told Legal Sports Report last month that they do have plans to include online and mobile sports betting in Kentucky. Additional details are still lacking at the moment, but lawmakers are said to believe they can legalize sports betting without having to go through the complicated process of amending the state’s constitution. All that’s needed is legislative action.