Kentucky Casino Bill Has One Last Chance Before Committee

Differences of opinion regarding the continuously changing bill for Kentucky casino gaming caused its consideration to be postponed Wednesday by the House Committee on Licensing and Occupations until the week of March 13.

Authored by the Kentucky Equine Education Project, the legislation had an apparent compromise in the works during the first week of March that would add three or four locations to the eight racetracks that would offer casino gaming.

Democratic Sen. David Boswell, who sponsored companion legislation in the Senate, told the Louisville Courier-Journal March 1 that he would continue to rally for the non-track locations. KEEP officials said they expected the measure to be changed during the legislative process. Boswell is from Owensboro, one of the proposed non-track locations.

"Supposedly, they're still working on it," Democratic Rep. Denver Butler, chairman of the House Licensing and Occupations Committee, said March 8. "This has been a long, drawn out process. Next week, we'll either have something to vote on, or it will be a dead issue. If they can't get together on it, then I'm not going to bring the committee out more than we already have.

"We've tried to work with House members, Senate members, the KEEP program, and everyone else in the state to try and get this bill where it will work. So far, we don't have an agreement, and we're not going to referee it here at this committee."

In legislation offered in previous sessions, casinos were sought in two western Kentucky cities, Owensboro and Hopkinsville. Casinos also were sought in the southeastern portion of the state, just off Interstate 75 near the Tennessee border.

"We're certainly on a very limited timetable, and it's getting very late into the session. Ideally, we would have made more progress earlier," Churchill Downs president Steve Sexton said. "We're continuing to hope that we can have a level playing field compared to bordering states West Virginia, Indiana, and non-bordering states Iowa and Delaware."

"Next week will be the final stop," Butler said. "Either they have it, or they can close up shop and look at it maybe next year or two years from now, or whenever it comes up again."