Kentucky gambling

One of the goals of introducing legal land gaming in Kentucky is to expand horse racing and make purses larger (Image:

When it comes to casino expansion, the question on every state’s mind seems to be “everyone else is doing it, so why can’t we?” The next state to take up the question of whether or not to expand their land-based gambling options may well be Kentucky, as a state legislator has now introduced two bills that would add casinos to the Bluegrass State.

Gambling Bills Introduced

The two bills were introduced by House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark of Louisville. The first would authorize a constitutional amendment that would allow Kentucky’s voters to approve or reject casino gambling in the state on Election Day 2014. The other bill would specifically allow licensing and regulation of up to three casino and five gambling venues located at horse racing tracks throughout the state.

A constitutional amendment to allow casinos in Kentucky is not a new proposal. A group known as “Kentucky Wins!” has been pushing for such a change, and recently earned the backing of a perhaps unlikely proponent: the Kentucky School Boards Association. The state’s legislature has been debating various forms of casino expansion for the last two decades, but casino gambling has never yet been approved for the state.

Still, renewed interest had already led legislators and industry experts to expect casino gambling to be a major issue in next year’s legislative session. Supporters of gambling expansion have been working more aggressively in recent years, as neighboring states have allowed more and more casinos to be built, potentially siphoning gambling money away from Kentucky before they even join the fray.

As with so many things in life, such a move would come down to one thing: money. According to Clark’s estimates, this legislation could result in $286 million in new revenue each year for Kentucky, money that would go to a variety of different causes.

“This legislation will create a new revenue source to support education, stabilize public pensions, boost local cities and county government and provide more treatment options for gambling and substance addiction,” said Clark. “At the same time, we will protect our signature equine industry, a crucial component of Kentucky’s agriculture economy.”

Funds to Go Towards Schools

Clark’s bill outlines a very specific allocation for any gambling earnings the state takes in. A full 50 percent of revenue generated would go to education, while another 25 percent would go to the state’s General Fund. Finally, 10 percent would be put aside for public pensions, while smaller amounts would go to public safety, drug and alcohol treatment, county-level public safety, local governments, and a Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund.

Gambling venues located at the state’s famous race tracks would also be required to put aside 14.5 percent of their earnings for the horse racing industry. This money would be used to increase purses and support breeding interests. In fact, Clark said that one of his biggest goals was to help provide the state with enough purse money to fund a year-round racing circuit, and the bill requires tracks to increase the number of races they host by at least 10 percent during the first five years that they host casino gambling.

Given the fact that the bills are new, even most casino supporters have not had a chance to specifically comment on what they think of the details of the proposal. Still, members of “Kentucky Wins!” say that they’re glad such legislation has been filed.

“The money for the state certainly is needed,” said Kentucky Wins! co-chairman Ed Glasscock.