Members of the Kentucky General Assembly were told Jan. 18 the state’s horse industry remains under siege from competitive forces out of state, and that action must be taken to reverse the slide.
It was the latest development in Kentucky as momentum builds toward introduction of legislation for a constitutional amendment on expanded gambling. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, re-elected in November, has said he will introduce a bill before February.
The issue was discussed during a morning meeting of the House Committee on Agriculture and Small Business. Robert Feenick, senior vice president at PBI Bank in Lexington, was on hand to outline financial challenges faced by the breeding industry in the state.
Feenick brought lawmakers up to speed on statistics that indicate the number of stallions in Kentucky dropped from 500 about five years ago to 260 in 2010. Other states have lost stallions as well as the foal crop shrinks, but Kentucky’s percentage drop is of concern given its stature in North America and elsewhere.
“I’m surprised that with the vested interest Kentucky has (in the horse industry), it has done very little to protect it,” Feenick said. “A healthy breeding environment has to be linked to a healthy racing environment.”
Feenick and others discussed oversaturation in the Thoroughbred market and the increase in purse money in other states that devote some gaming revenue to purses and breed development programs.
“I’d like to see something done for the horse industry,” said Democratic Rep. Johnny Bell, a member of the House committee.
Thus far in January there has been a survey that shows strong support by Kentuckians to vote on a constitutional amendment on casino gambling and a study projecting how much revenue racetrack casinos could produce. The governor has said his proposed referendum language will be “simple,” but he hasn’t indicated whether he wants casinos limited to racetracks.