GOP Senator says gambling bill could pass but wants guaranteed proceeds for horse industry

11/30/2011 06:26 PM

Republican state senators would take a “fair look at” any expanded gambling proposal that makes it though the Democratic-controlled House next year — and might actually get enough votes to pass it out of the Senate, Sen. Damon Thayer said.

“We might be able to get 23 votes as required in the Senate for a constitutional amendment,” he said (0:45 into the video). “But I feel that this is the governor’s issue … He has run his campaign on this issue.”

Thayer, a Georgetown Republican and chairman of the Senate state government committee, said on Pure Politics Wednesday that he would specific protections for the horse industry to gambling proceeds to be written into the state’s constitution. (That part starts at 4:10 of the interview.)

“Philosophically, it’s not the best approach,” Thayer said. “But if you look at the pressure being put on Kentucky’s racing and breeding industries from states that do have expanded gambling, I think if you want to keep us on a level field, there have to be constitutional protections for the industry.”

Thayer said he didn’t have a specific amount in mind but added that he sponsored a constitutional amendment in 2010 that would have diverted the first $100 million in revenue to funds breeders and tracks.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear campaigned on expanded gambling in 2007 — specifically through a constitutional amendment that must be approved by three-fifths of each chamber and the majority of voters in the next even-year election.

But Beshear didn’t bring up the issue much in his 2011 re-election campaign.

Thayer said he believes the energy for the issue has waned.

“I can tell you there’s not a lot of enthusiasm in general,” he said. “I think the issue in general has lost a lot of it’s energy in 2009” after a proposal to put slots at racetracks made it through the House but failed in the Senate budget committee.

_Correction: An earlier version misstated the required votes for a chamber to pass a constitutional amendment. Each chamber needs three-fifths (60 votes in the House, 23 in the Senate). _

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