Instant racing in the legislative mix, casino gambling out

02/15/2013 06:24 PM

House Speaker Greg Stumbo confirmed to reporters Friday that House Democrats are considering a bill to legalize instant racing at horse tracks and using tax proceeds from the game as one of the sources of revenue to pay into the state pension system.

This comes as the Herald-Leader’s Janet Patton broke the story Friday that Keeneland is considering purchasing the Prestonsburg racetrack Thunder Ridge and moving it to the London-Corbin area around I-75. But it’s essentially contingent upon the legalization of instant racing, Patton reported.

The Kentucky Racing Commission signed off on allowing instant racing, in which patrons can bet on historical horse races being shown on video terminals. But the Kentucky Family Foundation has challenged the legality of the games arguing that they are essentially slot machines. That challenge is currently before the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Stumbo has said House Democrats want to find sources of money to cover the cost of additional payments into the Kentucky Retirement System, which is in the hole by more than $18 billion.

He confirmed to reporters that instant racing is one of the options being discussed among House Democrats and Gov. Steve Beshear. From the $225 million that has been wagered on instant racing, the state’s take has only been about $450,000, Stumbo said.

He also said he favors the deal between Keeneland and the Thunder Ridge track in his home town of Prestonsburg. Here’s Stumbo’s responses in Friday morning’s press gaggle:

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers appeared unimpressed with Stumbo’s latest suggestion for revenue. And he said he’s reluctant to sign off on a bill that would affect the case before the Supreme Court.

Here’s what Stivers and Senate Republican Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, told reporters Friday about instant racing:

Stick a fork in casinos in 2013

Meanwhile, as the Courier-Journal’s Greg Hall first reported on Friday, Republican Sen. Dan Seum of Louisville counted heads in Senate and found he would be three votes shy in the chamber for a constitutional amendment to allow seven casinos in Kentucky.

A constitutional amendment requires approval of three-fifths of each chamber, which means 23 of the 38 senators.

Seum later issued a statement to reporters:

I discussed the possibility of a bill to expand gambling with casinos with some members of the caucus and found that there was not enough sentiment to deal with it since this is a short session with other more pressing issues.

Stivers also issued a statement:

There has been discussion among members of the caucus on the issue of expanded gambling. Leadership felt that the sentiment was simply not there to address it due to it being a short session with major issues such as pension reform still outstanding.

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

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