Kentucky Bill for Track, Non-Track Casinos Filed
by Tom LaMarra
Date Posted: 2/27/2004 5:02:16 PM
Last Updated: 2/28/2004 2:23:54 PM

Legislation to authorize a constitutional amendment on casino gambling at nine locations--five of them racetracks--in Kentucky was filed Feb. 27 in the state House of Representatives. A companion bill was filed in the Senate.

The bill, filed in the House by Democratic Rep. Larry Clark of Louisville, says the "primary purpose in authorizing gaming is the promotion of tourism and economic development." It says a "secondary but important additional purpose in authorizing gaming is to provide support for the horse racing and breeding industry."

The bill spells out the parameters for the five racetrack sites but doesn't name the tracks. They are, however, Churchill Downs; Kentucky Downs; Keeneland and The Red Mile, which would operate one casino in Lexington; Thunder Ridge Raceway; and Turfway Park.

Two of the four non-track casinos would be located near the Tennessee border. (The only legal gambling in Tennessee is the new state lottery). One would be located in Owensboro, an Ohio River city not far from Ellis Park, and another somewhere near a major highway in a jurisdiction that doesn't have a racetrack.

A new Kentucky Gaming Commission would be responsible for licensing the casinos. The measure calls for application licensing fees of $75,000 for track and non-track casinos.

In an interview on National Public Radio, Clark said the racing industry supported the legislation. He cited the state's budget woes as an impetus for the bill, which would raise about $437 million for the state when all casinos are operational in about five years.

The racing industry would get 13% of adjusted gross revenue for purses. That figure was decided upon earlier when the racing industry was seeking support for legislation to authorize casino gambling only at the state's eight tracks. Under the Clark bill, Ellis Park, owned by Churchill Downs Inc., and Bluegrass Downs, owned by Harrah's Entertainment, wouldn't get casinos.

Officials have said revenue would be shared, and non-track casinos would contribute to the racing industry as well.

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