Last month PFM, a consulting group contracted by Gov, Matt Bevin, recommended drastic changes to our pension systems and to the benefits of current and future public servants in Kentucky. Most of those recommended changes ignored our moral and legal obligation to pensioners. Reducing the benefits of our hard-working public servants is not an option. We must find new revenue sources to provide funding to shore up our pension systems.
On Sept. 20, I pre-filed a bill to provide just that: a new, dedicated revenue source. The bill requires the racing commission to regulate sports wagering while allowing only horse racing tracks and off-track wagering facilities in the commonwealth to take sports wagers.
The implementation, however, relies on the Supreme Court of the United States or Congress to nullify a federal law known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, commonly referred to as PASPA. PASPA prohibits sports wagering in all but a few states. Many experts believe this law will be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court when it hears a case challenging the law next month.
The majority of revenue generated from sports wagering would be deposited into the Kentucky Employees Retirement Systems Non-Hazardous and Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement Systems proportionally. The Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship would also benefit, with the remaining funds going towards the horse racing development funds.
This bill should be well received in the legislature as it has been across the country. Ten other visionary states have filed similar legislation and two others have already enacted similar legislation in anticipation of the court ruling. Also, this month Bevin joined 17 state attorneys general and two other governors urging the court to rule the federal law unconstitutional because it impermissibly skews the federal-state balance.
Quite candidly, it is important to me, as well as to many of my fellow Kentuckians, that this is not an expanded gambling bill. The definition of gambling in the Kentucky Penal Code states, “[a] contest or game in which … the ultimate winner is determined by skill shall not be considered to be gambling.”
The sports-wagering bill merely regulates an industry that is coming to Kentucky if the Supreme Court rules in the states’ favor. The legislature must act proactively to protect the people of Kentucky and we should take advantage of this opportunity to generate much-needed revenue.
It is difficult to estimate the amount of revenue Kentucky can expect from sports wagering. However, the estimates available bode well for those states with the foresight to regulate this industry. The American Gaming Association estimates that $4.7 billion ($4.5 illegally) was wagered on the Super Bowl alone this year, $36.5 billion ($35.4 illegally) will be bet on Major League Baseball this year, and $10.4 billion ($10.1 billion illegally) was bet on the NCAA tournament in 2017.
The money generated from sports wagering would go a long way in taking care of our public servants and shoring up the pension systems. We made a promise to these employees and we need to keep it. My legislation is a step in that direction.
Sen. Julian M. Carroll, D-Frankfort, represents Senate District 7.