Legalized sports betting is not yet inevitable in Kentucky, but it no longer appears impossible.
Backers of a bill that would regulate and tax wagering on sports other than horse racing say the necessary votes should be in place when the state legislature reconvenes in January.
Resistance remains, but the search for new sources of revenue and competition from surrounding states has led local lawmakers to reevaluate their options in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2018 decision that allows individual states to permit gambling on games.
Indiana sports betting went live on Sept. 1, with Gov. Eric Holcomb placing the first bets at the Indiana Grand Casino in Shelbyville. Tennessee's online-only sports betting became lawful this spring despite the objections and without the signature of Gov. Bill Lee.
With 13 states already allowing some form of sports betting, Kentucky was categorized as "moving toward legalization" in an ESPN state-by-state breakdown in August.
"I think attitudes toward various forms of gambling have evolved over the last 20 years," Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer said. "Sports betting is less controversial than casino gambling. We need all of the revenues we can get to continue funding pensions."
At issue is whether the potential tax revenues are large enough to justify what opponents describe as a regressive tax with a disproportionate impact on the poor and problem gamblers. At issue is whether Thayer and other Republican leaders have the will and the influence to overcome objections within their own party, notably those of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.
"It's quite an interesting political dynamic because the governor is against all of this," said Al Gentry, the Louisville Democrat who has partnered with Republican representative Adam Koenig to build support in the House of Representatives. "So you don't know, even if we get the votes, is (Senate President Robert) Stivers going to send him a bill that he's not going to sign?
"Is this something the governor is going to look the other way and let it pass without his signature or is he going to put political pressure on some of his members, which he never hesitates to do?"
Bevin did not stake out a definitive position on sports betting when the Supreme Court ruling came down last May.
"Sports betting has happened since the dawn of time," he told reporters. "People have always done it. It's done -- heck, we just came off a (Kentucky Derby) weekend in which it happened at a pretty prolific rate here in Kentucky. So, ultimately, what it means to us as a state policy-wise, it's way too early to tell."
Yet as his re-election campaign has progressed, Bevin's rhetoric has grown more bellicose. Bevin said there was "no political appetite" for expanded gambling in Kentucky during a July radio interview, adding the unverified claim that, "Every night somewhere in America, somebody takes their life in a casino because they've wasted the last semblance of dignity and hope that they had."
Bevin has described state reliance on gambling tax revenues as a "sucker's bet."
Thayer said Monday he knows of no commitment from Bevin to either sign a sports wagering bill or allow it to pass without his signature. The Georgetown Republican says he believes Bevin will not stand in the way of its passage based on "gut feeling." A spokesman for Stivers replied to an interview request last week by saying the Senate President would not be able to comment on sports betting legislation because of a full schedule.
With super-majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, Kentucky Republicans can often turn legislation into law without benefit of a single Democratic vote. But gambling issues cross different divides than the traditional gap between the two parties: religious versus secular, rural versus urban and, in some minds, virtue versus vice.
"It can easily get through committee unless word comes down from leadership that they don't want it out of there," said Martin Cothran, policy analyst for the Kentucky-based Family Foundation. "But I see it languishing on the house borders for quite a while as they try to gather their votes. If it gets out of the house, I don't see it as having any chance in the senate."
In need of 60% support to raise or spend money in an odd-year session, Koenig was unable to rely on his fellow Republicans to get the sports betting provisions of House Bill 175 passed in March. Though Koenig expressed confidence in getting the required votes in 2020, when a simple majority will be sufficient, he is counting heavily on the bill's bipartisan appeal.
Two Christian County students die following stolen vehicle pursuitaccident in Paducah
By Kentucky New Era
Two minors and a Paducah man were pronounced dead early Tuesday morning following the pursuit of a stolen vehicle in Paducah, according to a Paducah Police Department press release.
Just after 1 a.m. Tuesday, Paducah police received a call for a stolen vehicle from the parking lot of Incognito Gentlemen's Club located on Clark's River Road in Paducah. Shortly after, an officer observed the stolen vehicle on Jackson Street near Lone Oak Road.
Officers began to follow the vehicle before the driver began to speed up, causing a pursuit, the release stated. During the pursuit, several items were allegedly tossed from the car.
The stolen vehicle then traveled south on Schneidman Road when it went airborne after driving over a railroad crossing. The vehicle reportedly ran off the road and struck a tree in the yard of a home before a portion of the vehicle collided with the front porch and roof supports.
According to the police report, the driver, Caleb A. Puckett, 20, of Broad Street, Paducah, was pronounced dead at the scene.
The report also confirmed that the two passengers of the car also died at the scene.
Several officers rendered first aid to the occupants before medical personnel arrived, the report added.
John Rittenhouse, Christian County Public Schools director of public information, has confirmed that both juvenile passengers were enrolled at Christian County High School.
Paducah Police and Coroner's Office are continuing to investigate the crash.
Student reportssexual assault on Murray State campus
BY Murray Ledger & Times
MURRAY -- The Murray State University Police Department is investigating a sexual assault that was reported on campus over the weekend.
Murray State Police sent out a notice of the reported assault in compliance with the "Timely Warning" provisions of the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act of 1998. The notice said a student on Monday reported being sexually assaulted outside an academic building on the campus by a person the victim met on a social media app. The sexual assault was reported to have occurred in the late hours of Sunday, Sept. 8, police said. The notice said Murray State Police are conducting an investigation and that university officials and community partners are providing recovery resources to the reporting student.
Shawn Touney, Murray State's executive director of marketing and communication, provided an update on Tuesday to the original notice that was sent out Monday.
"As an update to this from (Monday) afternoon, the Murray State Police has identified a suspect, a non-student, who has since been banned from campus," Touney said. "The MSU PD is working with the Commonwealth's Attorney on the appropriate enforcement action related to the case."
Knife-wielding man chased officer and others inside Norton Hospital, police say
By Billy Kobin
Louisville Courier Journal
A Louisville man was arrested Wednesday morning after he chased after a police officer and others inside Norton Hospital while brandishing a knife, according to authorities.
Larry E. Glass, 57, was arrested after Louisville Metro Police officers responded to Norton Hospital, 200 E. Chestnut St., about 3 a.m. Wednesday on a report of a man inside who had a pocket knife and was chasing people, according to an arrest report.
An LMPD sergeant told officers he was providing off-duty security in the emergency room when employees and security "frantically approached him" and said a shirtless man was chasing individuals with a knife inside the hospital, according to the arrest slip.
The off-duty sergeant and officers found Glass on the first floor in the doorway of a central supply hallway, according to the arrest citation. The sergeant saw the knife and told Glass to drop it.
Glass told the sergeant he would not drop the knife and then started to run toward the sergeant and other witnesses while holding the knife, according to the arrest report.
The sergeant pushed a large cart at Glass and continued to tell him to drop the knife, but Glass refused, according to police.
The sergeant eventually grabbed a broom handle and struck Glass several times with it, causing the knife to fall from Glass' hands, the arrest report stated. The sergeant then apprehended Glass and waited for other officers to arrive, according to the arrest slip.
Glass was charged with seven counts of first-degree wanton endangerment and one count of first-degree attempted assault of a police officer, according to online court records.
Glass remains held in Louisville Metro Corrections and has an arraignment hearing scheduled for Thursday.