(Rep. Adam Koenig is the sponsor of HB 137 — which would legalize wagering on sporting events / Photo Submitted)
Honorable Member of the Kentucky General Assembly:
After spending nearly 30 years in Frankfort, KY., and chasing many of your around the halls of both the Annex and the Capitol in search of your time and your vote, I am very aware of the stresses and strains that are placed on you at this time of year.
“Hey Senator,” probably rings in your ears when you finally seek refuge and a little rest at night.
“Hey Representative, can I grab you?” probably plays in your mind, as if some one is continually hitting the repeat button.
Lunch, which used to be a time of leisure, now is a gauntlet run through the Annex cafeteria.
A simple stroll down the hallway to the restroom or a Committee assignment looks daunting. More like George Armstrong Custer’s last stand, even though I wasn’t there for that bill’s downfall. Yet again, General Custer did graduate from West Point in 1861 at the bottom of his class.
The hardline, desk phone in your office (you know the one; that heavy thing on the end of the desk; the one that does not take photos; the one that is nearly obsolete in every other business venture known to mankind, these days? Yeah, that thing!) rings like there is no tomorrow. And, guess what? To the person on the other end of that phone call? There is no tomorrow unless you answer and can chat about this bill or that resolution.
Simply put, Honorable Member, you are truly a person in demand these days and more and more people are demanding your attention bandwidth, too.
And, it ain’t a whole lot of fun. Granted.
Not on anyone.
But it is time that we had a little chat.
About House Bill 137, which is being sponsored by your colleague and friend — Rep. Adam Koenig.
About the legislation that would turn illegal sports betting and book making into a legal practice, with rules and regulations.
About the legislation that would allow Kentuckians to spend their hard-owned dollars the way they decide, choose and want to without having to go to Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, West Virginia or Tennessee to do the very same thing.
About the legislation that would pump millions of new revenue into the Kentucky General Fund and help pay for the crazy shortfalls in the state’s pension plan and other much-needed and under-funded programs.
About the legislation that has been hanging on the “board” since early this session and ready for the picking; about the legislation that has the necessary votes to pass the Kentucky House of Representatives; about the legislation that the vast majority of Kentuckians want to see passed. Now.
Yeah, it’s time to chat about that bill. That issue. And, the facts. And, the myths. And, the truth.
Let’s deal with the myths, first and foremost.
Number One: Despite what you may hear from the morally-superior, yet less-than-honest folks at “The Family Foundation,” betting on sports is not prohibited by the Commonwealth’s Constitution. There is not a single word, phrase, sentence in our Constitution that prevents you from acting. Not one. And, to the contrary, the United States Supreme Court has decided that if the General Assembly of each state and/or Commonwealth wishes to allow wagering on sports, then you have the right to do so. Boom. Green light has been turned on.
Number Two: Despite what you may hear from the morally-superior, yet less-than truthful folks from “The Family Foundation,” this is not an expansion of gambling in our Commonwealth. Seriously. It is simply a matter of “legalizing.” As you well know, there is sports betting going on — today — in every crook, cranny, city, burg, county, metropolis, town in Kentucky. Right now. If you don’t know of a “bookie,” give me a call. I’ll give you a few names. If you don’t want to work with a “bookie,” then go on-line. In a matter of seconds, you can set up an account off-shore. And, if you don’t want to do that? Well, the brand spanking new facilities are already popping up just across our borders. Again. And, guess what? Most of the license plates on the cars sitting in the parking lot have “Kentucky” written on them. Who do you think you are saving from themselves? Who?
Number Three: Despite what you may hear from the pulpit of the morally-superior “Family Foundation,” and “Hell, Fire, & Damnation” preachers on Sunday, the words “Thou Shall Not Bet on Sports” does not appear anywhere in my Bible. Doubt it does in yours, either. Or in any other scripture from any other Faith that you and your family turns to for solace and guidance. If the Good Lord — mine or yours — wanted to make sure of it? Probably would have told us so. Never known the “Big Person” to be shy when it comes to messaging. After all, before we had tweets the “Big Person” was known to use burning bushes, whales, floods, and all sorts of “direct messaging” to get the necessary point across. I am not sure of much, but I am sure the defining words would have appeared on the first tablet of the Ten Commandments — much less the second — that was toted down the mountain and delivered unto the peeps. Look ’em up. “Thou Shall Not Bet on Sports” ain’t on there.
Number Four: Despite what you may hear from the morally-superior “Family Foundation,” who likes to argue that our government should not be in the “gambling business,” and promoting wagering, then you had better get busy. Clock is ticking. We have lots of laws to change, amend, delete and reverse. Lots. And, lots. After all, what do you think the Kentucky State Lottery is and does? What do you think of Powerball? What do you think of bingo, which is held at many churches around our Commonwealth? What do you think about those “NCAA Pools” that will be passed out in every office complex — including the Capitol Annex and the Capitol, itself — in March Madness? What do you think about the stock market? Every heard of an “investor” putting their money in a stock or bond with total assurance that it is going to “make” money — guaranteed? It is a gamble, pure and simple. Ask any stockbroker who is worth their weight. It is a gamble. Even the state pension plan has invested in the stock market. Want to talk about how that turned out?
Now, let’s deal with the truth, which should be first and foremost.
Number One: When legalized, sports wagering will allow thousands upon thousands of Kentuckians the opportunity to enjoy a pastime and a pleasurable activity at home. Right here. In Kentucky. Not over in Indiana, where it is already legal. Not in Illinois, where it will be. Not in Tennessee, where it will be. Not in West Virginia, where it will be. Here. In Kentucky. If you truthfully believe in less government interference and obtrusion, and more individual freedom and rights? Well, my friend. This is right up your ally. People — your constituents — work. Work hard. They make their own money. It’s theirs. How they spend their money is not your decision to make. Sorry. Line drawn.
Number Two: When legalized, sports wagering will create millions of new dollars for the Kentucky General Fund. Dollars that can be spent to shore up a faulty budget. Dollars that can fix a leaking ship called the “State Pension Plan.” Dollars that can be spent on meaningful and under-funded programs. Dollars that can be utilized to help Kentuckians. And, guess what? It sure beats the hell, fire and damnation out of tax increases that have already been bandied about. Anyone back home calling you to ask for a tax increase? Anyone? I bet the preacher man ain’t even advocating for that in the pulpit on Sunday.
Number Three: When called for a vote on the floor of the Kentucky House of Representatives this session, sports wagering will pass. Of the 100 members that currently make up the Chamber? More than 50 of them will vote in favor of HB 137. And, here’s a shocker in today’s world of partisan politics. It will be supported by both Democrats and Republicans. It will be supported by both members of the Republican Leadership and the Democratic rank the file. When the measure goes to the Kentucky State Senate? There are indications among significant “vote counters” that the bill has growing support, too. So much so, in fact, that the issue of “sports wagering” is likely to pass that Chamber, as well. And, when the bill goes to the Governor’s office? It will be signed into law. If you want to place the first sports wager in the Commonwealth, do it now? The votes are there to pass HB 137.
In closing, let me leave you with just one thought? What is the biggest “wager” you have ever made it your life? Seriously, Representative / Senator? Think about it for a second.
Let me offer you a hint.
When you signed the papers to run for political office, you made a huge wager. You, my friend, placed a big bet. You bet on yourself in something that we like to call in Kentucky a “race.” A political race.
And, you bet that you could and would beat any and all opponents. You bet that you could and would win. You bet on you.
There is no difference, my friend.
That was, no matter how you cut it, a sports wager.
And, all HB 137 does, quite honestly, is allow people — our people — to bet on themselves, too. Allows people to wager that they can pick the winner. Allows people to wager that they have more “skill” to determine the outcome of an event. Allows people to wager that they can choose; they they have the right; that they control their own destiny and their own funds.
You have bet before. You bet you could win your election.
Now, just let us do the same thing.