Kentucky State Senator Wants to Ban Online Gambling

kentucky*This column has been amended to include a clarification by KY State Senator Mike Wilson.

Online gambling expansion is a hot topic of debate all across the country, with lawmakers in states as geographically distant and politically diverse as Pennsylvania and California clamoring to expand their gaming options into the online realm.

Yet there are other lawmakers taking the opposite approach, and calling for a ban of online gambling.

According to WBKO News in Kentucky, State Senator Mike Wilson (R-Bowling Green) is one such opponent of online gambling. Sen. Wilson has pre-filed a bill that would make online gambling illegal in Kentucky.

Wilson’s BR 229 was submitted on November 17, 2014 and is designed to, “Amend KRS 528.010 to include in the definition of “gambling device” an electronic device used to facilitate Internet gambling and to define “simulated gambling program.”

The bill was introduced as a piece of Emergency legislation, which allows the law to go into effect immediately upon passage, waiving the Kentucky Constitution’s 90-day period of implementation.

Impetus of the bill

Wilson’s reason for introducing the iGaming ban isn’t the usual fire and brimstone we have come to expect from anti-online gambling crusaders, and doesn’t seem to be directly linked to the broader efforts by Sheldon Adelson and the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.

“What they’ve done is they’ve taken away the charitable gaming from people like our veterans who are the VFW and the American Legion, which I’m a member there also. As well as, the Knights of Columbus, it’s really hurt them big time,” Wilson was quoted as saying.

It will be interesting to see if Sen. Wilson’s bill is able to gain any traction considering Kentucky relies heavily on online horse racing, and the state is already looking to expand into lottery sales after teaming up with GTECH, and plans to launch online lottery sales as early as the Fall of 2015.

States with online gambling laws on the books

On one side of the ledger, Georgia, Minnesota, and Illinois have already passed online lottery bills, and Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey have all passed laws legalizing online poker and/or online casino games.

In most other states online gambling falls into varying gray areas, or appear to be covered under older gaming laws.

Currently, only South Dakota, Montana, Washington State, and Utah have passed legislation that explicitly covers online gambling.

Kentucky isn’t the only state to consider clarifying their gambling laws to expressly cover online gambling. A similar idea was floated in Pennsylvania earlier this year by State Representative Mario Scavello. Scavello’s bill would have made playing online poker a crime in  Pennsylvania, but saw supporters drop off and was eventually scuttled after mounting criticism arose.

*Update on Kentucky State Senator’s Online Gambling Ban*

When pressed by the Poker Players Alliance’s Rich Muny, Kentucky State Senator Mike Wilson (R-Bowling Green) stated that his proposed online gambling ban was “constructed to shut down the Internet sweepstakes café’s in store fronts not individuals playing online poker.”

Wilson’s replies on Twitter seem to indicate BR 229 isn’t an attempt to preemptively prohibit legal online gambling in the state, but it should be noted the current draft of the bill doesn’t make this overly clear.

The bill is very clear in that it goes after operators and not players.

The bill is also very clear in its carveouts for Kentucky’s powerful horseracing industry, which handles a significant amount of its business online.

Hopefully the final version of the bill will clear up these other potential issues.

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