Lexington Forum hosts debate on sports wagering bill

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – Sports betting is a key part of Governor Andy Beshear's plan for 2020, but the controversial topic has sparked debate across the Commonwealth.

Rep. Adam Koenig (left) and Martin Cothran (right) met in Lexington this morning to debate sports betting. (Photo: WKYT/Jim Stratman)

[RELATED: Supporters of sports wagering bill betting votes are there for it to pass]

That debate came to the Lexington Forum Thursday morning, where proponents and opponents weighed the constitutionality and the impact sports wagering would have on the state.

Over 30 representatives have co-sponsored a House Bill 137, which would make sports betting legal in Kentucky, but is a bill enough? That was one question posed this morning.

"There is no net with holes big enough to allow sports wagering through and small enough not to let casino games through," says Senior Analyst at the Family Foundation, Martin Cothran. "The problem with House Bill 137, we believe, is not just what it proposes to do, but how it proposes to do it."

Cothran says it would take a constitutional amendment to expand gaming before sports betting can be allowed in Kentucky.

That’s a stance House Bill 137 sponsor Rep. Adam Koenig opposes.

"These are all games of skill,” says Koenig. “There are people who make their living doing these on a regular basis. You can't make a living playing slots every day, because eventually, it will get you."

Representative Koenig said that sports betting could bring in an estimated $45 million to the state. Some of that would go to fund addiction help services while the rest would go to the pension system.

Lexington Forum President Ryan Kelsch says, “Clearly this is a conversation that has mattered not only to the Lexington area but to Central Kentucky and Kentucky as a whole. We want there to be a conversation around topics that matter and we want all sides represented and I think that's what we had today."

Rep. Koenig says that House Bill 137 could go before the House for a vote any day now and should it pass, he believes they also have the votes to pass it in the Senate.