The Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association is circulating a petition asking the General Assembly to support legislation to authorize video lottery terminals at racetracks in the state.
Democratic Kentucky Rep. Greg Stumbo, sworn in as Speaker of the House Jan. 7, two days later introduced legislation authorizing video lottery terminals at the state’s racetracks. Committee hearings on the bill could be held in the next few weeks; the 30-day legislative session begins in earnest the first week of February.
“We, the undersigned, fully support House Bill 158,” states the petition, circulated via e-mail. “Horse racing is the signature industry in Kentucky. It provides thousands of jobs for Kentuckians and billions of dollars for our economy. Due to competition from our neighboring states, racing and breeding in Kentucky is in jeopardy.
“We respectfully request that the General Assembly respond to our urgent need and save the racing industry.”
Under the bill, the Kentucky Lottery Corp. would operate the gaming machines. The legislation doesn’t call for a constitutional amendment, as did a 2008 bill calling for full-scale casino gambling at racetracks and other non-track locations.
The bill calls for VLTs on racetrack property only. Keeneland and The Red Mile, both in Lexington, would share a license. The track with the larger purse account in 2008 (Keeneland) would receive 60% of the proceeds if no other agreement is in place.
Each track would have to pay $25,000 for an initial license, and $10,000 for renewal. The state tax on VLT gross revenue would be 25% of the first $100 million at each track, and 35% in excess of $100 million. Of the 65%-75% remaining, 14.5% must go toward purses for Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing; 1% to the new Kentucky Equine Breed Authority; and 0.15% to the Kentucky Quarter Horse purse program. The tracks would keep the rest, but 0.5% must be spent on backstretch improvements.
Racing’s 14.5% share would be paid out as follows: 81.33% for purses, 18% for Thoroughbred breed development; and 0.67% for horsemen’s groups. For Thoroughbred purses, 10%-40% could be used for Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund supplements, and 10%-40% for a new Kentucky Thoroughbred claiming fund.
The bill contains no provisions for VLT funds for regulation of the racing industry, equine drug testing, and equine health and safety programs, all of which are hot-button items in Kentucky and around the country. The 1% that would go to other breeds, however, would provide funds for things such as horse trails and breed development.
In December, an official with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board suggested any state considering racetrack gaming legislation should look at using some of the revenue to fund racing regulation and equine health and welfare programs. Pennsylvania's law has no such provisions, though it does mandate barn-area improvements and provide funds for horsemen's pensions and health insurance.
Another bill being prepared by Republican Sen. Damon Thayer would allow the racing industry to keep excise tax money to fund the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and other programs.