KEEP Opposes Open-Ended Gambling Measure

Group says state's horse industry could be damaged if legislation were to pass.

A proposed constitutional amendment that would give the Kentucky General Assembly the power to authorize any and all forms of gambling has met with opposition from the Kentucky Equine Education Project.

KEEP, which represents the state's horse industry in legislative matters, thus far has been receptive to two other bills, one in the House of Representatives and the other in the Senate, that call for a constitutional amendment on casino gambling. Those bills, however, are limited to a specific number of casinos, and the Senate bill would guarantee the horse industry 10% of gaming revenue.

The latest measure, introduced by Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo, would amend constitutional language that authorized the state lottery. It would add one sentence: "Nothing in this section shall preclude the General Assembly from authorizing other forms of gaming by general law."

The ballot question would read: "Are you in favor of allowing the General Assembly to pass general laws authorizing other forms of gaming?"

KEEP said its board of directors voted March 6 to oppose the Stumbo bill, in part because the legislation has no restrictions and offers no protection for horse racing and breeding.

"During the current legislative session our organization has worked very closely with legislative leaders to craft a constitutional amendment to expand gaming that would preserve Kentucky's signature industry," KEEP executive director Bob Heleringer said. "We were not consulted about (the latest bill), which could be very detrimental to Kentucky's horse industry.

"We cannot support this constitutional amendment in its current form and we strongly urge all of Kentucky's state representatives to oppose its passage. KEEP will continue to support any legislation that ensures the future success of an industry that has a $4 billion impact on Kentucky's economy and provides over 40,000 jobs."

With about 15 regular days left in the General Assembly session it appears unlikely any gambling-related measure will pass. Legislators in February indicated then there wasn't enough agreement on or support for the issue.

There also has been little movement on legislation that would exempt the horse industry from a sales tax on certain farm equipment and supplies.