expanded gambling

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.

A Kentucky lawmaker has filed a pair of bills that will again bring the issue of expanded gaming before the General Assembly.

State Rep. Larry Clark, a Louisville Democrat, has pre-filed legislation that would place a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 2014 ballot asking Kentucky voters if they permit "the General Assembly to pass laws authorizing casino gaming?” according to language in BR 108.

Clark's companion gaming bill, BR 109, would establish the Kentucky Gaming Commission, a body comprised of nine members appointed by the governor that would regulate up to eight casinos under the proposed legislation, with an annual operational budget of no more than $5 million.

Out of a total estimated $830 million in gross revenue generated by the casinos, about $286 million of that amount would be collected in state taxes from casinos by the measure, according to an estimate conducted by the Legislative Research Commission.

Kentucky High Court Takes Up Instant Racing Challenge

Aug 21, 2013

The Kentucky Supreme Court is set to step into a long-running dispute over whether a slot machine-like device is legal in the state.

The justices will hear arguments Wednesday from the state and The Family Foundation, which is challenging the Instant Racing game. Each side will have 30 minutes to make its case.

The game allows patrons to bet on past races without knowing the names of the trainers, jockeys or horses involved. Kentucky Downs in Franklin and Ellis Park in Henderson each offer the game.

he high court case will focus on whether Instant Racing is a pari-mutuel game, like horse racing, or more like slot machine gambling, which is not allowed in Kentucky.

Gambling brings social ills that will offset any tax revenue to Kentucky, argued a new group that rallied Wednesday in the Capitol Rotunda.

About 30 people joined the group Stop Predatory Gambling Kentucky for the rally, where speakers dismissed efforts in the General Assembly to expand gambling through casinos or Instant Racing.

Karen Hendersen, executive director of Stop Predatory Gambling Kentucky, warned that casinos create a burden to state funds in the form of gambling addiction treatment and family assistance programs.

"We have great promises that casinos or the lottery or instant racing will end up helping us out but the cost or the personal cost far outweighs any financial benefit," Hendersen said.

Kevin Willis

Senate leaders are sensing little interest in a bill that could legalize casinos in Kentucky and won't consider the issue in the current legislative session.

Senate President Robert Stivers, the Republican from Manchester, said Friday lawmakers would have little time to deal with the issue amid an already heavy agenda that includes shoring up the state's pension system for government retirees.

Despite a long history of wagering on horses, Kentucky has never allowed casinos. And lawmakers have been reluctant to change that in the Bible-belt state, knowing they may face disapproving constituents in future elections.

Gov. Steve Beshear, a leading proponent of casino gambling, said last week that passing casino legislation this year would be unlikely because the proponents were divided on how to proceed.

Kentucky House leaders are considering legalizing Instant Racing across Kentucky to help plug the funding gap in the state's pensions.

Instant Racing is a slots-like game currently played at two Kentucky tracks, Ellis Park and Kentucky Downs. The legality of the game is also currently being litigated at the Kentucky Supreme Court.

But if the General Assembly passes a bill authorizing it, the court case would be moot.

The Democratic caucus is considering the Instant Racing option as one of many to fully fund state pensions going forward, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said.

Gov. Steve Beshear says disagreement among gambling advocates has made it unlikely that the Legislature can pass a constitutional amendment on casinos this year. Beshear told reporters Tuesday that Kentucky's horse racing industry is divided on how to proceed, which has weakened the chances of passing an amendment.

Despite a long history of wagering on horses, Kentucky has a constitutional ban on casino-style gambling. And many lawmakers have been reluctant to vote to change that, knowing they may face disapproving constituents in future elections.

Beshear has argued for years that Kentucky is losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year to neighboring states that already have casinos. He said Kentucky needs to legalize casinos so that money can be kept in the state.

A recently-released poll shows that a majority of Kentuckians support expanded gambling.

In the Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll, 60 percent of those polled said they support expansion. For the first time, a majority Eastern Kentucky resident support gambling. 

The support is for a so-called clean gambling bill, which would not include any protections for horse racing tracks.

That's the approach Governor Steve Beshear is planning for his next gambling push. But opponents of gambling say any potential bill will fail because supporters can’t choose a single strategy. Also, only one track, Churchill Downs, has endorsed Beshear's plan.

The Courier-Journal is reporting that Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear will consider proposing an expanded gambling package this year that does not include increased gaming at the state's horsetracks.

Beshear says that may be the only way he can get a gambling bill passed in the state legislature.

The Governor has tried unsuccessfully in the past to get a casino gambling bill through the Kentucky Senate. Expanded gambling supporters have hoped that last year's retirement of former Senate President David Williams, who opposed increased gaming, would better the bill's odds in 2013.

Kevin Willis

After years of defeat, Kentucky lawmakers believe an expanded gambling bill could become law next year. At the Kentucky Chamber’s annual policy day, House Speaker Greg Stumbo and new Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer discussed the prospects of such a bill in the upcoming session.

Both leaders suggested the opposing chamber take up the bill first when they get to Frankfort next month.

Thayer was the sponsor of a Senate gambling bill in this year's session. The measure ultimately failed. But Thayer says the Senate can pass a new bill if the governor pushes hard enough.