KY Gaming Referendum Bill Passes Committee

Legislation calling for a constitutional amendment on any expansion of gambling in Kentucky passed a Senate committee Jan. 20 on a predictable party-line vote.

The measure, sponsored by Republican Senate President David Williams, was approved by the 12-member Senate Committee on State and Local Government by a 7-5 vote. Seven Republicans approved it, while five Democrats voted against the measure.

The bill goes to the full Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. Should it pass—there isn’t a reason to think it won’t—the bill faces partisan opposition in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.

Williams said the legislation would “let the people decide and end the debate” over expanded gambling in Kentucky.

There was very little discussion about the bill, which came up for a committee vote less than 24 hours after Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear announced a two-year budget plan that relies on more than $700 million in revenue from racetrack video lottery terminals. Williams and others have said gaming has no chance of passing the General Assembly.

Another bill calling for a constitutional amendment on racetrack VLTs was introduced by Republican Sen. Damon Thayer, chairman of the Senate Committee on State and Local Government. He pulled it from consideration the week of Jan. 11, saying he wanted to see if it picked up support.

Thayer made no mention of his bill or the horse industry during the Jan. 20 committee meeting. Williams said he opposes the measure.

Later in the day Jan. 20, Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo filed a bill authorizing racetrack VLTs, revenue from which would fund school construction. It's similar to the measure that narrowly passed the House but died in a Senate committee in 2009.