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KEEP: Gaming Levels Playing Field

KEEP offered a presentation on the benefits of gaming revenue to horse racing.

To continue dialogue on why Kentucky needs expanded gaming, and to further educate the General Assembly on the matter, Kentucky Equine Education Project executive director Patrick Neely recently gave a presentation during a special legislative subcommittee meeting in Frankfort, the state capital.

The presentation was one of many offered in January before a legislative working group that’s gleaning information on casino gambling.

“My main point of discussion was the competitiveness issue,” said Neely, who took the position that with casinos, Kentucky would be more equipped to compete with surrounding states that have enhanced their racing and breeding programs with expanded gaming. “I encouraged the General Assembly to put us on a level playing field with our competitors, and then I gave examples of what has been happening in our competitor states to increase field sizes, purses, handle, foal crops, etc., and compared that to Kentucky’s trend lines, which are all relatively flat.”

Neely shared statistics that indicate how the horse industry impacts the state. Kentucky’s horse economy had an estimated economic impact of $4 billion per year, he said.

To explain the importance of adding expanded gaming to the industry, Neely pointed out how gross purses in North America had reached record levels in 2006, largely because of increased purses at racetracks that offer alternative gaming.

According to The Jockey Club, of the 12 states and Canadian provinces that offered at least $1 million more in purse money in 2006 than in 2005, eight permit alternative gaming at racetracks, Neely said. Gains in 2006 were paced by Oklahoma, where purses more than doubled to more than $18 million during the first full year of racino operations.

Another chart showed Turfway Park’s minimum purse at $6,000 last year, compared with $14,000 at the newly opened Presque Isle Downs near Erie, Pa., which has a slot-machine casino connected to the racetrack.

“It was informative to share with the committee the economical impact that the industry has on our state,” said Democratic Rep. Larry Clark of  Kentucky. “I thought it was well received…this committee is not a statutory committee—it’s a fact finding, education committee--so I thought it was a pretty good meeting for that matter.”

Gov. Steve Beshear could outline his casino plan during a Jan. 29 budget address before the General Assembly. Published reports, however, indicate the legislation may not be made public before mid-February.

The legislative session runs through mid-April.