Racetrack Slots Plan Offered in Kentucky

A new proposal allows just video gambling machines at racetracks alone.

With a contentious proposal to legalize casinos stalled in the House, a lawmaker is floating a compromise measure that would allow slot machines or video lottery terminals at Kentucky racetracks.

Democratic Rep. Greg Stumbo said March 6 the proposal may be more palatable among House members than the long-debated plan to open casinos in the state. “I think there are lot of members, including myself, who still aren’t comfortable with the notion of casino gaming in this state,” Stumbo said. “This, in my judgment, is an alternative that we’ve seen work in other states.”

Stumbo had planned to present his proposal to Democratic lawmakers in a caucus meeting March 6, but House leaders opted not to discuss gambling. Instead, they talked only about the state budget.

If lawmakers like his proposal, Stumbo said he will file an amendment that would modify the existing casino legislation. Early indications suggest most don’t want such an amendment, Democratic House Speaker Jody Richards said.

Gambling opponents also objected to Stumbo’s plan, saying they are against opening the state to any additional forms of gambling. John Mark Hack, head of the anti-gambling group Say No To Casinos, called video gaming machines the most addictive form of gambling.

Though Kentucky has traditionally allowed pari-mutuel wagering and has a state lottery, the state’s constitution specifically forbids casinos. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear is proposing a constitutional amendment to lift that ban. He made legalizing casinos a centerpiece of his election campaign last year and has been pushing the proposal since lawmakers convened in January.

Beshear spokeswoman Vicki Glass said the governor hadn’t yet seen Stumbo’s proposal but “will be interested to see” if it might win legislative approval.

Stumbo said his proposal, which would be limited to the state’s eight existing racetracks, would generate money for the horse industry while generating state revenue to help fund education and other government services.

Such plans have been floated over the years in Kentucky but gained no traction.