Though it was described simply as a “Sports Wagering bill,” HB 175 would have had huge ramifications for Kentucky families.
House Bill 175 was “advertised” in the General Assembly in Frankfort as the “Sports Wagering Bill” but it actually went way beyond its moniker. Fortunately, its demise should be listed as another victory in the 2019 Session even though it must be chalked up as a “defensive kill,” not an “offensive victory.” Bad legislation that is killed IS a victory indeed.
Here are some of the problems that House Bill 175 would have brought with it, had it passed:
- HB 175 would interfere with the 8 1/2-year historical horse racing litigation. HB 175 would have mooted The Family Foundation’s appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court where the gambling industry will have to argue that “mutual wagering” is not part of pari-mutuel wagering.
- HB 175 was not a “sports” wagering bill . . . it would have authorized wagering on any non-sporting events the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) may have approved in its discretion. An earlier version of the bill actually suggested in the bill language wagering on the “Oscars and Emmys.”
- HB 175 would have authorized new forms of gambling prohibited by § 226 of the Constitution. The Kentucky Constitution only allows pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing, The Lottery and charitable gaming. “Sports Wagering” is not listed.
- HB 175 would have been “Special Legislation,” which is prohibited by § 59 of the Constitution. Certain corporations and companies may not be specially selected and granted privileges over others via legislation – like horse racing tracks.
- HB 175, if passed, would have violated the Federal Wire Act, which was passed by Congress to deter gambling over interstate lines.
- In HB 175, the KHRC was to be charged with licensing/regulating new gambling, yet it is currently not subject to the Executive Branch Ethics Code. Given the corruptive history of the gambling industry in its relationship to government, it doesn’t make sense not to have the Executive Branch Ethics Code have sway in the KHRC’s business.
- Conflicts of interests are not prohibited. The KHRC may even issue gambling licenses to its own members. As an independent commission, the KHRC is accountable to no one. It has already been openly discussed that one current member of the Commission, who works for a large sports venue, may be one of the first to have a new license.
- The KHRC retains the ability to refuse to comply with open records laws. That is too much “independence,” particularly when it comes to the gambling industry.
- Currently, the KHRC has no duty to report illegal activity, which, sadly, very often accompanies gambling.
For these reasons, and others, HB 175 only passed its House committee and never was called onto the House Floor for debate and a vote.
The bottom line on gambling expansion bills is that ALL the money that the gambling industry boasts that it will “raise for government” comes from one place and one place only – the family. It’s generally Moms or Dads losing money that was to be used for their children’s clothing and supplies, or even groceries. That is reason enough to work against such a bill.