Problem Gambling Becomes Focus of Kentucky’s Legalization Efforts

Problem Gambling Becomes Focus of Kentucky’s Legalization Efforts

Kentucky has been debating heavily whether it should legalize gambling and amid those debates, a strong push for responsible gambling has emerged. The state, which is falling behind its neighbors in terms of sports betting legalization, is trying to catch up to the rest while also creating one of the most successful gambling addiction help services.

Creating a Robust Problem Gambling Framework

Even though the state has not authorized sports betting per se, Kentucky has been running a number of other operations, including traditional horse racing betting, historical horse racing machines, and a state lottery. Yet, the Bluegrass State deemed it not necessary to spend any money on problem gambling and addiction, that is until now.

A new and ambitious piece of legislation is hoping to change that. House Bill 609 authored by Adam Koenig, a staunch supporter of regulated gambling and a vociferous critic of those who stands in the way of progress, could change that by creating the country’s biggest problem gambling program. Koenig spoke on Monday but his appeal to fellow lawmakers was not to just push ahead with sports betting legislation.

It included a detailed plan of what a Kentucky responsible gambling system would look like once the appropriate legislation is put in place. Under Koenig’s “Kentucky Problem Gambling Fund” a total of $225 million will be set aside to treat various issues that stem from excessive gambling.

Koenig is not planning to dip in the public purse but rather use the settlement money won from the PokerStars lawsuit. Flutter, which owns PokerStars presently, has agreed to pay $200 million, plus another $100 million that have been previously forfeited, providing Koenig with his funding for his ambitious plan. That is to say, if fellow lawmakers approve his plan.

Can Koenig’s Responsible Gambling Plan Pass on Time?

Koenig argued that this funding would transform Kentucky from a state that has no plan in place regarding problem gambling to one of the states in the country with the most robust such system. Today marks the 42nd day of the 60-day legislative session in Kentucky, which means that the window is closing in quickly.

The good news is that the bill is at the House Committee on Committees and it will most likely be sent to the House Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations Committee first, which is the one Koenig chairs and where his clout is felt the most.

Koenig’s proposal is not the only item on the agenda, with other important issues up for debate, including the tax budget, changes to the personal income tax system along an overhaul of the unemployment program all of which may prove too important to leave time to debate the responsible gambling proposal.

According to a now dated report on problem gambling from 2003, Kentucky has around 20,000 residents who are struggling with gambling addiction. The up-to-date numbers suggest that this group is now closer to 30,000 people. Should Koenig’s proposal go ahead, it would be the biggest problem gambling initiative anywhere in the United States, and an example of what more states could do to tackle the issue.