Kentucky Casino Bill Heard in Committee

Officials representing the horse industry said Wednesday following a Kentucky House of Representatives Licensing and Occupations committee meeting that full industry support for casino gaming at five racetracks and four off-site locations comes down to cleaning up language in the proposed bill. The bill, which was filed by Democrat Rep. Larry Clark, is expected to be heard in full committee during its March 10 meeting.

"Overall I think the legislation is reflective of the legislative process," said Bob Elliston, president of Turfway Park. "There are a few technical aspects that need to be finalized. We have some specifics to add. It's a matter of translating what has been agreed upon to the correct legislative language. We need to make sure we are protected."

The five tracks in the bill are Churchill Downs; Kentucky Downs; Keeneland and The Red Mile, which would operate one casino in Lexington; Thunder Ridge Raceway; and Turfway Park.

The bill states the Churchill Downs casino must be located in downtown Louisville. Alex Waldrop, vice president of public affairs for Churchill Downs, said the track is currently looking at the entire package before committing full support for the downtown casino.

Ellis Park and Bluegrass Downs are not being considered for a casino license. Ellis Park is owned by Churchill Downs Inc., which would have a gaming license via its ownership of its flagship Louisville track and its interest in Kentucky Downs. Bluegrass Downs is owned by Harrah's Entertainment, a part owner in Turfway Park.

Two of the four non-track casinos would be located near the Tennesseee border. One would be located in Owensboro, and another at a location to be named later. The bill states off-site casinos cannot be located within 25 miles of an existing racetrack or existing casino.

The non-track casinos would contribute 10% of gross revenue to the racing industry.

The bill calls for 13% of adjusted gross revenue to go to purses, 35% to the state, and 52% to casino-license holders. The casino license holders would be responsible for infrastructure costs as well as operating costs.

If the bill clears both the House and Senate it would be placed on the November general election ballot. If the amendment passes, before casinos could be constructed a local referendum would be held to determine if the communities directly involved would support the casinos.

"This is legislation that could help the horse industry," Elliston said. "However, there is still work to be done."

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