Gambling faces long odds in Kentucky Legislature

January 08, 2010 8:10 PM


Staff & Wire Reports |

A politically divisive proposal to legalize slots at Kentucky horse tracks appears to be facing long odds in the state Legislature this year, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Friday.

Citing staunch opposition among Senate leaders, Stumbo told reporters that he doesn't expect the Democratic majority in the House will take up the issue.

"It's obvious that Senate leadership is not going to allow that bill to get to the floor," said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. "I don't know why we continue to have a useless debate over it."

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, argued that Kentuckians would have to lose "hundreds of millions, if not billions" of dollars in slot machines to generate the estimated $300 million in gambling tax revenues that proponents have projected.

Williams walked out of a joint press conference with Stumbo after repeating his long-standing objection to gambling - that Kentucky's poor would be the most frequent patrons of the proposed slots parlors.

"Expansion of gambling is a bad idea, and, the fact that we have tough economic times, it's not a time to prey upon the poorest among us," he said.

Stumbo claims Kentucky residents already are taking their money into neighboring states to gamble, and that Kentucky should provide those opportunities so that other state governments aren't capturing the revenue.

House lawmakers have been looking at a proposal to use gambling revenues to leverage about $1 billion in bonds to pay for a massive school construction program, creating work for thousands of jobless Kentuckians. Stumbo said rank-and-file lawmakers have also offered some other ideas of how that money could be spent, though he didn't elaborate.

Although Kentucky has a long tradition of betting on horse races, political leaders have been reluctant to legalize other forms of gambling.

Williams said he plans to file a measure next week that would allow voters to decide whether to allow an expansion of gambling. The measure would require the slots proposal or any other gambling issue to be ratified by voters in a ballot referendum.

Stumbo said he believes the slots proposal would pass the House this year if proposed, just as it did last year. But he said he's not sure the Democratic majority will want to bother with it.

"Do we want to deal with something that we know is not going to get a full and fair hearing on the Senate floor? My guess is probably not," he said.

Question? Comment? E-mail the staff at: Staff of GamingToday

Bookmark and Share