House leader makes case for 'simple' casino measure and companion bill to direct income to education

01/15/2014 10:59 AM

Rep. Larry Clark, D-Louisville, made his first pitch Wednesday for his approach to allowing casinos in Kentucky, which would include five of eight casino licenses going to horse tracks and designating much of the income to fund public schools.

Lawmakers didn’t take a vote on any measure Wednesday. Instead, the House Licensing and Occupations Committee heard only testimony about the House Bill 67 that would amend Kentucky’s constitution to include what Clark, the House speaker pro tem, calls a “simple” question for voters.

The question before the voters on the ballot would say,” Are you in favor of permitting to the General Assembly to pass laws authorizing casino gaming?” The constitutional amendment requires approval of three-fifths of each chamber of the General Assembly and ratification of Kentucky voters.

As a companion to that piece, House Bill 68 outlines the casino licensing process and how revenue would be designated to be spent.

Clark said the bill will allow for eight licenses in the Kentucky. Five of the licenses will go to named horse tracks and three non-track casinos. But Clark said he wants the casinos to be located along the interstate highway system near Kentucky borders to attract out-of-state revenue.

A Legislative Research Commission economist predicted that with eight casinos in the state projected revenue is expected to be $830 million by the fourth year of operations. Watch the video below to see how Clark says his bill would distribute the state’s share:

But lawmakers want some protections on the funding stream.

Rep. Darryl Owens, D- Louisville, asked Clark if he would consider amending the bill to allow for a provision ensuring that money would be above and beyond what the state already allots for K-12 education.

Clark told lawmakers that a recent poll also predicts that his bill has a higher favorability ranking at 72 percent than that of Sen. Dan Seum, R-Louisville, legislation which garnered 57 percent in an unnamed state wide poll. Seum is pushing a constitutional amendment that calls for seven casino licenses and designates 10 percent of the revenue to the horse industry. But Clark said the poll numbers are close enough that they show both legislators are on the right track.

Horse industry officials, Clark said, are meeting about both bills, and he said he is open to their suggestions for changes.

The House Licensing and Occupations Committee will hold a second hearing on Jan. 22 in which opponents of casino gaming will speak.


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