KY Horse Industry Confident on Track Gaming

Though racetrack gaming wasn’t put on the initial call for a June 15 special legislative session in Kentucky, the state’s horse racing industry expressed confidence the issue will be on the agenda—and pass.

Gov. Steve Beshear issued a call June 3 for a special session to address a budget deficit, but noted he could put other items on the agenda within the next few days. His official proclamation for the special session indicated it would deal solely with budget issues; revenue from racetrack video lottery terminals and up-front licensing fees would qualify.

Beshear repeatedly has said the horse industry in Kentucky is in crisis and in need of assistance, and he said so again June 3 before he released the official call.

“We appreciate the governor’s comments today, and the fact that he’s considering adding this VLT-at-racetracks issue to the call,” the Kentucky Equine Education Project said in a statement released late in the afternoon of June 3. “His comments indicated that he clearly has a firm grasp of the plight we are in. We believe that the governor and a majority of House and Senate members recognize the risk facing our signature industry.

“We fully expect that VLTs at racetracks will be introduced and passed during the special session.”

The statement, though bold, is in line with what industry officials have said privately in the past few months: They believe there are enough votes in both houses of the General Assembly to pass racetrack VLT legislation.

The KEEP board of directors met the morning of June 3.

The budget shortfall for the coming fiscal cycle that begins July 1 could be about $1 billion, according to estimates from economists. The current budget plan calls for cuts of about $200 million, and use of more than $700 million in federal stimulus funds.

There are no revenue-raisers in the budget, which leaves the door open for racetrack gaming. Up-front licensing fees alone would generate hundreds of millions of dollars under legislation introduced earlier this year.

Beshear, however, said the state can’t rely on gaming revenue in the short term. He also told the media he is working on his own racetrack gaming plan.

“Here in Kentucky, we have avoided such devastating actions by carefully and decisively managing the state budget over the last couple of years,” Beshear said. “We have acted to preserve priorities in education, health care, and public safety, and I am proposing to do so again.”

With the special session beginning in a little more than a week, it’s expected any additions to the call probably will be known by the end of this week.

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