Associated Press reports today that the Kentucky Senate passed the bill to legalize sports betting in the Bluegrass State. The Senate voted 25-12 for the bill Thursday and sent it to be signed into law by Gov. Andy Beshear to finally resolve the long-time controversial issue.

Promoting the bill during the debate, Republican Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, the main supporter of the bill, said: “We love our sports in the commonwealth. And people want to be able to make the choice — of their own free will — to make a wager on a sports event, like almost all of our surrounding states.” The Democratic governor, Andy Beshear reportedly hailed the bill’s passage: “Kentuckians will soon be able to place their bets here and for the first time.”

Long and Winding Road to Legalization:

Gov. Beshear has supported the legalization of sports betting in Kentucky throughout his mandate. But it has been a long and winding road through the Kentucky legislature as previous attempts to have sports betting legalized in the state were supported by the House but did not pass the Senate, such as Bill 606 proposed last year, or Bill 594 which passed the House at the beginning of the 30-day legislative session earlier this month but was resumed from the floor for consideration.

Finally, Bill 551 cleared the House two weeks ago and needed a three-fifths vote in three Senate chambers to evolve into the law. The Senate voted 25-12 Thursday to approve the sports wagering in the state and end the long-running debate among the legislators. Proponents of the law reportedly said it would generate at least $23 million a year in tax revenues and gambling license fees, while opponents consider sports betting addictive and thus harmful to society. Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield reportedly said during the session: “Ask yourselves, how much money people of Kentucky have to lose before we get that?”

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission – The Regulator:

On the other hand, supporters have argued that sports wagering is already available in most of Kentucky’s neighboring states. In the home of Kentucky Derby, the bill anticipates Kentucky’s horse racing tracks to be licensed as sports betting facilities with the license fee amounting to $500,000 and the annual renewal fee of $50,000. Tracks would be allowed to partner with up to three sports wagering operators who will be subject to a $50,000 initial license fee and a $10,000 annual renewal cost.

Sports wagering operations in the state will be governed by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which costs would be covered by tax revenue. Also, a part of the tax revenue would be used to fund problem gaming associations and the public pension system. Republican Thayer, a long-time supporter of legal sports wagering, said that the legislature passed Thursday to honor the tradition of betting on horse races in Kentucky.  “This is a great day for the commonwealth and its people,” he said. ‘‘Freedom won the day.”