KY Casino Vote Gets Another Push

Kentucky's governor has again called for a vote on casino gambling.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear again has called for the state General Assembly to approve legislation allowing a referendum on casino gambling, but details of the legislation still haven’t been released.

Beshear made his comments Jan. 29 while outlining his two-year budget plan to members of the House of Representatives and Senate. The 2008-10 fiscal plan faces a $134-million shortfall, Beshear said, and cuts will have to be made across the board.

Beshear, a Democrat, didn’t include projected casino revenue in the budget. However, he said casinos would provide a new, stable source of revenue for future years.

“Do we want Kentucky money benefiting people in other states, or do we want to bring it home?” Beshear said in his address, which was broadcast live on Kentucky Educational Television. Casinos would generate “hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue,” he said.

Beshear said it’s time to let the public decide on casino gambling via a constitutional amendment that could be on the ballot in November 2008.

“I call upon you to pass and place it on the ballot,” Beshear told the General Assembly. “I trust the people in this state to make the right decision.”

In post-address interviews on KET, legislative officials said they’re still waiting to hear the details of proposed legislation expected to call for casinos at racetracks and non-track locations. There have been suggestions casinos, when all of them are operating, could produce about $500 million in tax dollars for the state, though some have questioned that projection.

“There are many details we don’t know yet,” Democratic House Speaker Jody Richards said. “This is the first step in the process.”

“The amount of money (for the state) continues to go down, and the take for the casinos continues to go up,” Republican Senate President David Williams said. “I don’t see support in the House or Senate to pass a casino bill.”

The horse racing and breeding industry has weighed in on the legislation behind the scenes but has given no public indication what it seeks in the legislation.

On another note, Beshear called for a host of bond issues, one of which would provide more than $13 million for the second phase of expansion at the Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center in Lexington. The center is considered crucial for the state’s horse industry.