Long Way to Casinos In Kentucky

Greg Stumbo

So yesterday Governor Steve Beshear introduced his plan for bringing casinos and legalized gambling to Kentucky. And today, “all hell broke loose” in the General Assembly (linked from Page One Kentucky). It’s safe to say that reaction to the plan was negative, at the least. Even Beshear ally Greg Stumbo (above picture from the C-J), D-Prestonburg, says he can’t support the Governor’s plan as-is, since Floyd County — despite having a racetrack — “is too poor to support a casino.” I guess Stumbo thinks a Floyd County casino wouldn’t bring any additional jobs for his constituents? Anyway, here’s a short synopsis from the Courier of who and where’s gonna get ’em (if they’re ever approved, that is):

Under Beshear’s proposal, Prestonsburg and the six other communities with racetracks would be eligible to have casinos.

In addition, the plan would allow stand-alone casinos in five locations on Kentucky’s borders: Daviess County; Christian County; Kenton or Campbell County; Boyd or Greenup County; and Laurel or Whitley County.

Casinos

This means that Churchill Downs — like every other eligible racetrack in the state — would be free to expand gaming, either at the storied Central Avenue track or elsewhere in Jefferson County:

“We’re very happy that the governor has taken a leadership role in this and that we have an opportunity to put this before the voters of the commonwealth of Kentucky,” said Kevin Flanery, vice president of national public affairs for Churchill Downs Inc. “… And we’re very encouraged that this is a great first step.”

Churchill would compete against a Harrison County, Ind., casino with an effective tax rate below 30 percent, but Flanery said the Louisville-based track operator could be successful.

“Part of it is where we’re located,” he said. “Part of it is the facility that we have. Part of it is that we have the Churchill Downs brand. People know us. They trust us.”

He said Churchill will evaluate the governor’s proposal before determining how much it would invest, what its development would include — such as a hotel — and where it would be built.

Flanery said Churchill’s preference is to develop a casino at the Central Avenue track. But since the bill would allow the casino to be elsewhere in Jefferson County, the company will consider what’s best for itself, Louisville and the state.

In the meantime, a special interest group has been formed (but of course!) called Let Kentucky Vote!, urging legislators to allow Beshear’s casino referendum to go before the voters in November (from polwatchers):

According to a news release, the group is a coalition made up of KEEP, Greater Louisville Inc., Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, Jefferson County Teachers’ Association, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 227, and United Food and Commercial Workers IN-KY Council.

The website, www.letkyvote.com, is chock-full of talking points on dollars Kentuckians already wager, casino research, taxes and jobs in other states, and a link to send your legislator a message.

Still, even with such strong allies, approval of casinos has quite a tough hill to climb, especially in the Kentucky Senate.

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