FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Gov. Andy Beshear promised an accelerated push Friday to get legal sports wagering started in Kentucky, saying he’d like to see the system set up in time for the upcoming NFL season if possible.
While the Democratic governor discussed the timeframe for launching sports betting, a Republican vying for his job talked about what he’d like to do with tax money collected from the wagers. GOP gubernatorial candidate Alan Keck proposed redirecting most of it to bolster school safety. Keck is among a pack of GOP candidates competing to challenge Beshear in this year’s fall campaign.
The remarks come days after a bill to legalize sports betting won final passage in the state’s GOP-dominated legislature, after years of failure. Beshear signed the bill soon after it reached his desk.
Attention now turns to the grind of setting up the framework to regulate sports wagering.
“The people are really excited about this, so we want to get it up and going as quickly as we can but also to do it right,” Beshear said at his weekly news conference Friday.
Lawmakers assigned the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to regulate sports betting operations.
In setting up its system, Kentucky will examine the “best practices” used in other states with established sporting betting operations, the governor said.
“We’re not the first person to build this wheel,” he said.
Beshear avoided offering specific dates for launching sports betting in the Bluegrass State, but pointed to the start of the NFL season when discussing the timetable in broad terms.
“I would really like to have it ahead of that first NFL game, knowing that that is a big starting date for people,” the governor said.
The NFL’s regular season opens in early September, when the fall campaign for governor will be heating up. The formal launch of sports betting is certain to get considerable statewide attention, and Beshear’s supporters see it as a big win for the governor, who advocated for legal sports betting for years. His bill signing turned into a celebration among the bill’s supporters. The governor’s GOP detractors say the governor has little to no sway in a legislature with Republican supermajorities.
Meanwhile, Keck offered his plan Thursday for funneling future sports betting revenues into school safety initiatives.
“There is simply nothing more important than ensuring that our kids, our teachers and our administrators get home safe every day,” Keck said while unveiling his plan on social media.
Keck, the mayor of Somerset in southern Kentucky, also proposed policies to encourage military veterans to serve as school resource officers to help bolster security in Kentucky schools.
Last month, a former student shot through the doors of a Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, killing three children and three adults. The massacre at The Covenant School was the latest in a series of mass shootings in a country that’s grown increasingly unnerved by bloodshed in schools.
Republican state Sen. Max Wise, the running mate of another GOP Kentucky gubernatorial candidate, Kelly Craft, has been at the forefront of legislative efforts to bolster school safety.
Sports wagering in Kentucky is estimated to generate about $23 million a year in revenue, though some supporters predict higher amounts. Under the law, most revenue will go to the state public pension system. Keck wants to redirect most of the tax money to school safety instead.
The new law will allow Kentucky’s horse racing tracks to be licensed as sports betting facilities for a $500,000 upfront fee and an annual renewal cost of $50,000.
Participating tracks can contract with up to three service providers for sports wagering services at the track itself, or through online sites and mobile applications. Service providers will have to pay $50,000 for an initial license and $10,000 a year to renew.
Twelve candidates in all are competing for the Republican nomination for governor in Kentucky’s May primary. Beshear is seeking reelection to a second term, in a campaign drawing national attention to see if the popular incumbent can overcome his party’s struggles in the GOP-trending state.