KEEP Still Undecided on Push for Casino Gambling

The Kentucky Equine Education Project has not yet decided whether it will again push for casino gambling at racetracks in Kentucky in 2008.

While the Kentucky Equine Education Project continues to lobby for legislation that would remove the sales tax on equine feed and supplies in Kentucky, a decision is pending in regard to whether the organization will again push for casino gambling at racetracks in 2008.

"(Lobbying for casino gaming) would depend upon the action of the board, and the board hasn't taken any official action yet," KEEP chairman Brereton Jones said Aug. 23. "It would be their decision as to what or how much. They meet every 60 days or so, and I'm sure it will be discussed at the next meeting and future meetings."

Jones serves on the 33-member KEEP board along with vice-chairman Bill Casner of WinStar Farm and other prominent Thoroughbred industry figures, including John Sikura, Steve Sexton, Duncan Taylor, Nick Nicholson, Doug Cauthen, Robert Clay, and Bill Farish.

"We will be discussing (casino gaming) once the details are fleshed out," Jones said. "That doesn't mean to imply that we're leaning against doing this at all. We've already taken the stand that if it's done the way we introduced the legislation the last session, I would assume the board would agree to do that again. But I can't speak for the board without the board taking action."

In 2006, KEEP proposed a constitutional amendment on expanded gambling that would be limited to the state's racetracks. The organization listed specific percentages for revenue and the state programs gaming funds would support, but the House of Representatives declined to back the concept.

KEEP announced earlier this summer its endorsement of the Democratic Steve Beshear/Daniel Mongiardo ticket in the 2007 Kentucky gubernatorial campaign because of the candidates' support of horse industry-related issues, such as the tax equity bill and expanded gaming. Incumbent Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher is campaigning against casinos.

The tax equity bill would remove the sales tax on feed, grooming supplies, and other products sold for equine use. Supporters of the bill view it as an unfair tax only levied on horse farmers, as sales taxes are not applied to the same items purchased for other livestock.

A similar tax equity bill was filed during the 2006 session and received more than 31 additional co-sponsors in support. The bill, however, didn’t make it out of committee for a vote.

"The issue that we've already made a decision on is tax equityto try and get the sales tax on horse feed and supplies to be treated the same as other livestock supplies,"Jones said. "We'll be lobbying very hard on that issue."

According to Jones, KEEP made a $1,000 contribution toward the Beshear/Mongiardo campaign, and several others in the 11,000-member organization have made individual donations. In addition, 30 KEEP members and non-members will co-host a fundraiser on Beshear's behalf Sept. 6 at the Lexington Country Club.

In campaigning before the primary election, Beshear claimed that if he is elected, expanded gaming could be on the ballot by November 2008, and the law could take effect in January 2009. Revenue could start streaming in later that year.

"We're trying to unite the whole industry--that's the primary purpose of KEEPto try to unite all horse interests so we can support legislation that we think is helpful to the horse industry," Jones said.