Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear will likely leave office next year without making good on one of his campaign pledges.
Legislative leaders say casino gambling is hardly on anyone’s radar for the 2015 session. Governor Steve Beshear told WKU Public Radio support appears to be waning even among proponents.
"You've got your tracks that only want it at the tracks. Some will go further than that, others won't, so they can't agree with each other, much less than anybody else. It's one of those issues that while a lot of people say they want it, they only want it on their terms."
Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer sponsored a measure in 2012 to get a casino amendment on the ballot. The Georgetown Republican maintains he won't try again.
"I will not be sponsoring another expanded casino gambling bill as long as I'm in the state Senate," states Thayer. "I sponsored that bill a few years ago and said I would take one shot at it, and I have no plans to sponsor another bill like that in the future."
Keeneland Race Course and The Red Mile have been approved for instant racing and plan to open facilities in July 2015. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission unanimously approved the requests Wednesday.
Keeneland and Red Mile officials expect to reach similar levels of wagering as the only other sites in Kentucky that offer instant racing, Kentucky Downs in Franklin and Ellis Park in Henderson. They collectively take in about $30 million in wagering a month, with Kentucky Downs alone averaging about $1 million a day.
Approval is pending agreements with horsemen to determine how much revenue they'll receive.
Keeneland expects to build a 50,000 square foot parlor and install 600 terminals, while The Red Mile wants to build a 40,000 square foot parlor onto its grandstand and install 500 machines.
A state lawmaker from Louisville says the issue of expanded gaming isn’t dead yet.
Rep. Larry Clark says that he met with representatives from five Kentucky racetracks and the head of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to allay concerns of the thoroughbred industry over a bill he has filed that would expand gaming in the commonwealth.
“We discussed a lot of issue that were on the table, and we resolved a lot of ‘em," the Jefferson County Democrat said. "They’re gonna be back with us Friday on some issues that we think are critical to passing a constitutional amendment and passing gaming but it was very productive today, one of the better meetings we’ve had in quite a few years.”
A similar bill filed in the Senate has been met with reluctance by Republican leadership in that chamber.
The Kentucky Supreme Court says the state can’t collect pari-mutuel taxes on instant racing games.
However, the Courier-Journal reports the high court also ruled Thursday that instant racing was legally implemented in the commonwealth.
Kentucky Downs in Franklin and Ellis Park in Henderson currently offer instant racing, which involves bettors wagering money on videos of previously run races.
Despite the ruling, justices said the conservative Family Foundation of Kentucky can continue its efforts to oppose Instant Racing. The group is gathering evidence for its legal challenge against the games, which it believes were implemented illegally.
State regulators have allowed pari-mutuel taxes to be collected on the games, but Thursday’s ruling by the Kentucky Supreme says those taxes only apply to live racing events.
The Kentucky Baptist Convention is speaking out against expanded gambling in a new radio ad aimed at stirring grassroots opposition to legalizing casinos.
The ad is debuting Wednesday on Christian radio stations.
It features the Baptist Convention's executive director, Paul Chitwood. He says casino operators want to "cash in on the misery" of others. He urges listeners to press their lawmakers to oppose expanded gambling.
Chitwood also makes his case in a video being sent to churches across the state.
The Baptist Convention's campaign comes as expanded gambling supporters are renewing their efforts in this year's General Assembly session.
Lawmakers are considering proposals that would let Kentucky voters decide whether to amend the state's constitution to legalize casinos.
Supporters say casinos would generate much-needed revenue for the state as lawmakers grapple with budget cuts.
Opponents of expanded gambling in Kentucky are focusing on the social costs of casinos.
Testimony from anti-gaming groups in Frankfort Wednesday connected expanded gambling with increases in crime and gambling addiction.
Former Representative Stan Cave is now with the anti-gaming Family Foundation. He says in addition to the vices associated with gambling, he’s concerned with a lack of transparency governing gambling interests.
“The gambling bill enables concealment, and licenses secrecy," he said. "For example, section four expands the exceptions to the open records law, to whatever the new gambling commission considers, quote, ‘confidential, proprietary information of the commission.’”
Legislation has been filed to amend the state constitution to allow expanded gambling and to put the issue before voters on the November ballot.
The legislation in the House includes funds for treating gambling addiction.
Neither chamber has taken up the issue for a vote on their respective floors.
A high-ranking Kentucky lawmaker believes there’s enough public support to pass a constitutional amendment to expand gambling in the state.
But House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark also admits that getting the necessary votes in the legislature remains an uphill fight.
The Louisville Democrat testified before the House Licensing and Occupations committee Wednesday about a pair of measures on the issue, including his bill that would ask voters whether casinos should be allowed.
“The Senate also has a constitutional amendment on this subject, and the Governor is engaged as well," Clark said. "I think we’re in a good position this year to make progress.”
A Senate bill sponsored by Louisville Republican Dan Seum would allow up to seven casinos in the state and set aside 10 percent of revenues to benefit Kentucky’s horse industry.
Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says expanded gaming legislation would ideally begin with a constitutional amendment.
Stumbo told reporters Tuesday in the Capitol that by passing only the enabling legislation in the House, the measure could avoid the kind of horse-trading that Senate President Robert Stivers has warned will threaten his support for it.
“I would envision that the House would pass simply enabling legislation, and not spend the money, and that will alleviate his concern. If the voters were to -- I think the voters need what the enabling legislation is. For example: how the commission will be set up; who’ll get the licenses, that sort of thing; where will they be located? That’s the big question.”
Two measures to expand gaming and introduce casino gambling in the state have been introduced in the House and Senate.
Kentucky's highest-ranking Republican lawmaker says he will oppose any expanded gambling measure that uses political patronage to garner support.
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers says while he is not opposed to gaming if it has unified support, he doesn’t want the issue to be advanced by a trade of votes for pet projects.
“I’m not talking about anything that’s illegal. It’s part of the process that somebody gets a road, or if you do this, we think we can do this, you know, the promising of these things in exchange for a vote. That puts us in a worse fiscal position, has the potential to put us in a worse fiscal position than we’re in now. And if that happens I’ll do everything from a policy standpoint to try to stop it.”
Two sets of expanded gaming bills have already been pre-filed in the legislature. Supports say gambling could raise hundreds of millions of dollars in additional tax revenue for the state.