Last chance seen for Kentucky casinos

Long a leader in the thoroughbred racing industry, Churchill Downs has seen the benefits of expanding its gambling venue to include casinos, having acquired gambling properties in Maine and Mississippi.
Now the company, Churchill Downs Inc., is prepared, once again, to increase its efforts on the home front, an effort that has failed repeatedly over the past decade.
But, supporters of legislation authorizing casinos in Kentucky feel this could be the last time such a bill could win over the objections of the state’s religious groups.
“This is probably the last chance to do it, I really think,” said one of the casino bill sponsors, Rep. Larry Clark, a Democrat from Louisville, home of Churchill Downs racetrack, and the second-ranking House member.
He plans to introduce the latest version of a bill that authorizes a constitutional amendment proposal for the 2014 fall ballot in Kentucky. First, it must be approved by the General Assembly.
After years of rejection, the bill is still considered a longshot to pass.
“We think they’ve got the same problem they’ve always had…which is they don’t have the votes,” said Martin Cothran, a spokesman for The Family Foundation.
“It’s not good for the state, it’s not good for the horse industry, it’s not good for problem gamblers,” Cothran said.
Kentucky, recognized as a Bible-belt state, has a long history of gambling on horse racing but not on slot machines and card games. However, it has legalized slot machine facsimiles that permit wagering on previously run horse races.
Making the casino proposal bipartisan comes from the major support of Sen. Dan Seum, a Republican from Louisville, who serves as the Senate Majority Caucus Chairman.
Seum is proposing the bill provide for up to seven casinos statewide with locations to be determined by companion legislation.
Revenues would be used to bolster race purses and breeders’ incentives to encourage horse owners to race in Kentucky, a problem that is growing since states such as New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania now use casino revenue to boost its horse racing programs.
Casino supporters point to job creation and additional revenues that could be used to assist the state’s education programs, human services, public safety and even provide a one-time bonus for military veterans.


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