Kentucky racetrack says it's all in on casino proposal

02/20/2012 07:38 AM

The first draft of the constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling in Kentucky makes several guarantees to racetracks, but at the end of the day, the tracks just a chance to cash in on the casino revenue.

Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky has had to cut back race days and is seeing increasing competition from nearby casinos in Indiana and soon, Cincinnati. And it’s getting closer to the point in which Turfway owners might consider selling the track’s prime real estate in the heart of Northern Kentucky if casino gambling doesn’t come to fruition, said Bob Elliston, Turfway’s president and CEO.

It’s owned by Harrah’s Entertainment, which has pledged to invest $100 million and hire as many as 600 people for a casino at Turfway, Elliston said.

Elliston said casino revenue could help double purses. And that would result in pay raises for track employees and health insurance for more workers.

The constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling allows for up to five casino licenses specifically for Kentucky horse race tracks and up to two others for freestanding casinos that can’t be within 60 miles of a track. The horse industry also is mentioned as an area in line to benefit from casino revenue to the state.

However, the measure’s sponsor, Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, and Gov. Steve Beshear, have said they are working on changes to the bill before it comes up before Thayer’s state government committee on Wednesday.


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