After extensive debate among Kentucky Democratic House leaders over whether or not a number of licenses should be set aside for racetracks in a proposed expanded gaming bill, the legislation finally passed out of committee Feb. 27.
In a special meeting of the Legislators on the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, which added two members Feb. 26, a version of the constitutional amendment backed by Democratic Rep. Joni Jenkins and House Speaker Jodi Richards easily passed on a 7-2 vote.
The proposal now goes to the full 100-member House.
The legislation, which calls for nine casino licenses, five of which may or may not be awarded to racetracks passed one day after it failed to be even adopted by the committee.
A version that set aside five casino licenses for racetracks was adopted, but did not get enough support to pass to the House floor Feb. 26.
After hearing testimonies from several horse industry members, including Craig Bandoroff of Denali Stud, Democratic Rep. Dottie Sims, who had originally supported Jenkins and Richards' amendment, changed her vote to support the version that set includes licenses for racetracks.
Later that day (Feb. 26), Richards removed Sims from the committee and replaced her with Democratic Reps. Tim Firkins and John Will Stacy. Both had previously supported Jenkins and Richards' version in a subcommittee on expanded gambling.
Supporters of Jenkins and Richards' amended bill indicated it had a better chance of passing out of the House and going before the senate since it leaves all licenses open to competition.
But passage of a bill that does not provide guaranteed casino ownership to racetracks could bring major opposition from the horse industry.
On Feb. 26, Bandoroff said such a bill could create additional competition for the horse industry from free standing facilities.
"If you continue on this course, I can assure you you will lose your signature industry," he warned. "It's not the rich horse people you should consider. It's everybody else."
Said Gov. Steve Beshear in a statement: “I am encouraged by the quick response to my call for action to move a version of this amendment along. I am aware of the concerns that Kentucky’s signature industry--the horse industry--has about this version of the amendment, and I plan to continue meeting with House leadership to find a way to address those concerns.”