KEEP Plans Rally for Casino Bill

KEEP members will attend a Feb. 26 committee meeting hearing for the KY casino bill.

In an attempt to recruit people to support the proposed constitutional amendment for expanded gaming, the Kentucky Equine Education Project urged its members to attend a Feb. 26 committee meeting hearing for the bill, as well as a horse trailer caravan "rally" the same day in Frankfort.

After the 8:30 a.m. EST committee meeting, KEEP officials will convene with their members to explain how they should address their legislators about the gaming issue.

Patrick Neely, executive director of KEEP, said other industry-related organizations such as the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association are also sending out a push to their members to attend the committee meeting.

"We just want people to come and fill the committee room and talk to legislators in person, and then we're going to encourage them to fan out across the capitol and talk with all their individual legislators," Neely said. "We want the elected officials can hear the personal stories of the (Kentucky) horse industry, and hear exactly what's at stake and why we have to do everything we can to protect it."

KEEP has also asked for other industry members to participate in a horse trailer caravan during the time of the committee meeting. Representatives from the organization will lead those with trailers in loops around the Capitol to symbolize their support of the bill.

"It's just to give a visual of the people all over the state hauling their trailers…these are the men and women who wake up every day and work in our horse economy, which contributes so much to our state," Neely said.

On Feb. 19, a legislative subcommittee studying expanded gambling in Kentucky recommended a revised constitutional amendment calling for up to nine casinos instead of 12 and no dedicated percentages for state’s share of gaming revenue.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s original casino bill proposal called for seven racetrack casinos and five non-track gaming halls. The subcommittee narrowly voted to change that to up to five racetrack casinos and up to four non-track casinos.

Legislators on the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee indicated they didn’t have time to consider changes at a Feb. 20 meeting, however, and postponed the issue until Feb. 26. Brereton Jones, chairman of KEEP, and David Switzer, executive director of the KTA, offered their thoughts on the revised bill.

"This is a fluid process, and we're going through the process of trying to get it in a way that the public will feel good about it and respond positively to it," Jones said. "We're in the process of trying to make some revisions that we feel need to be done."

Said Switzer: "I think (the bill) has got to get out of committee. If it gets out of committee (Feb. 26), we still have 100 members of the House of Representatives that we need to be talking with. Of course, we would love to just have (casinos) at racetracks, but that's not going to happen. We're not happy with it, but it's still got a long way to go through the process.

"The guarantee (for racetracks) could end up being in there. We've agreed to allow the bill to move forward and go through the process, and at certain points in the process, there are opportunities to make some changes if you can find enough support to do that."