Kentucky legislators have left open the possibility expanded gambling could be revisited in the future, but they claim greed and resistance by the horse racing and breeding industry put a casino bill on the shelf for the 2004 session. Industry officials disagree with that perspective.
Despite numerous cancellations because of weather or track conditions, Turfway Park has registered business gains during the winter/spring meet that extends through April 1. And with live racing set to resume March 10, it appears the racing surface finally has dried out after a washed-out weekend.
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.
Officials representing the Kentucky horse industry agreed Wednesday to proposed alternative gaming legislation that would put casinos at four racetracks and four other non-racetrack facilities in the state.
Though the prospects for expanding gambling in Kentucky remain clouded, the racing and breeding industry has settled on a plan for a constitutional amendment to authorize full-scale casino gambling at the state's eight racetracks.
The signs point to progress in Kentucky in terms of a bid for racetrack gaming in 2004, while in Pennsylvania, the horse industry is slowing the prospects for passage of legislation, officials said Nov. 11 during a panel discussion at Racino 2003 at Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort.
Racing industry officials in Kentucky are taking a wait-and-see approach in the wake of the election of Republican Congressman Ernie Fletcher as governor, but a few said Fletcher's representation of the horse industry in Washington, D.C. bodes well for Kentucky.
With a push for a constitutional amendment on expanded gambling looming in 2004, former Kentucky governor Brereton Jones said he would help fashion legislation to authorize full-scale casino gambling at racetracks.
Alternative gaming at Kentucky racetracks must be tied to a constitutional amendment, and the public must have a say in how the state's share of the revenue is spent, the former governor of Kentucky said June 22 during a panel discussion at the Thoroughbred International Exposition & Conference in Lexington.
Even though the Kentucky General Assembly passed legislation earlier this spring designed to return Quarter Horse racing to the state, supporters of the sport are having a difficult time finding a host racetrack.
Representatives of the Kentucky Quarter Horse Racing Association plan to meet with Turfway Park president Bob Elliston May 13 to discuss the possibility of holding live Quarter Horse races at the track.
Turfway Park, which has lost several million dollars in revenue in recent weeks because of multiple live racing cancellations, is "airing out" its racing surface in the hope the worst of the winter weather is a memory.
With legislation to authorize racetrack gaming apparently dead during the current legislative session in Kentucky, the racing industry is expected to begin another campaign well before the 2004 session begins.
Legislation to authorize electronic gaming devices at Kentucky racetracks was introduced Feb. 18 with a new twist: The tracks have offered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars up front to help the state tackle its lingering budget crisis as long as they get exclusive rights to gaming in the marketplace.
Turfway Park, which began implementing measures designed to improve wagering security and increase customer confidence in mid-November, will adopt new wagering policies beginning Dec. 1, opening day of its holiday meet.
Turfway Park concluded its 2002 fall meet the evening of Oct. 3 with litle change in total on-track handle compared with the 2002 meet. Total handle fell 5% because of a decrease in out-of-state wagering.
The Kentucky legislature wrapped up most of its business April 2 without considering a bill that would allow the state's eight racetracks to install electronic gaming devices. Though the bill had support in the House, it never got more than a committee endorsement.
Legislation that would authorize electronic gaming devices at eight Kentucky racetracks--and presumably generate $1.7 billion in revenue for the state over six years--was introduced in the House of Representatives Feb. 26. The 177-page document is said to have support in the House, but serious hurdles may loom in the Senate.
In order to protect overnight purses, Turfway Park has reduced the purse for the grade II Lane's End Spiral Stakes to $500,000. In recent years, the Spiral, a 1 1/8-mile event for 3-year-olds on the Triple Crown trail, has gone for $600,000.
Kentucky's Thoroughbred racetracks and horsemen's associations apparently struck a deal the week of Jan. 21 on revenue splits that will lead to alternative-gaming legislation. Under the plan, the state, not the racetracks, would get the lion's share of revenue from track-based slot machines or video lottery terminals.
The chances of alternative gaming at Kentucky racetracks will lie in the hands of lawmakers, but as of mid-January, racetrack officials and horsemen's groups were said to be close to agreement on revenue splits, a crucial component of any legislation that may be introduced.
A full field of 12 is scheduled to compete in Saturday's Holiday Inaugural Stakes, the first stakes event of the "winter" season in Kentucky. Turfway kicked off its Holiday Meet Nov. 25, and will race straight through to early April.
In a strong promotion that links horse racing and gaming, Turfway Park will put its top 100 FasTrack Rewards program members on a private plane to Laughlin, Nev., for an all-expenses-paid junket in late November.
During a Tuesday morning hearing one legislator called "an eye-opener," representatives from Kentucky's horse racing and breeding industry outlined its current status and the economic challenges it faces. And it wasn't a pretty picture.
The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association claims it wasn't notified by Turfway Park management of a plan to change first post to 4:10 p.m. on weekdays, but management said that's not the case. Track officials believe the switch will help boost handle, while horsemen say due diligence is necessary before any change is made.