KEEP Releases Plan for Racetrack Casino Revenue

The Kentucky Equine Education Project began lobbying in earnest for its racetrack casino plan with a letter to more than 3,200 community officials outlining how the state's share--a projected $437.5 million a year--from gaming would be spent under proposed legislation.

KEEP endorses a constitutional amendment on casino gambling at licensed tracks in the state. It plans to push legislation during the 2006 General Assembly session to get the issue on the November ballot.

Casino revenue is estimated at $1.25 billion a year, with 35% for the state. Of the state's share, KEEP proposes 40% for education, 20% for health care, 12.5% for local government, 10% for economic development, 10% for environmental agencies, 3.5% for the budget reserve, 2% for addiction treatment and prevention, and 2% for agricultural and animal research.

Money would go to each of the state's 120 counties based on population. The seven counties with racetracks would get their economic development benefits from jobs and payroll and property taxes generated by the casinos.

KEEP executive director Jim Navolio said the organization, which plans a marketing campaign beginning this month, has adopted the public message "Keep It In Kentucky." KEEP and other groups said $236 million in tax revenue from Kentuckians has gone to Illinois and Indiana via riverboat casinos.

Navolio said horse racing would get 14.65% of the casino revenue, while 1% would go to other breeds of horses for various programs. That would leave almost 50% for the racetracks, which would bear all the costs of constructing and operating casinos.

Of the 14.65%, purses would get 12% and breed development 2.65%, Navolio said. Based on gross revenue, that's $150 million for purses and $33.1 million for breed development for Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing per year.

In 2004, five tracks in Kentucky paid total Thoroughbred purses of about $85.5 million--Churchill Downs $39.8 million, Keeneland $19.6 million, Turfway Park $15.8 million, Ellis Park $8.8 million, and Kentucky Downs $1.36 million. Based on the projected casino revenue, the purse pool would almost triple.

Further details on the horse industry splits weren't available. Spokesman Bob Elliston, president of Turfway Park, couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

KEEP hopes to have its legislation finalized in December to begin sharing with legislators before the 2006 session begins in January.

"We strongly believe that this is the right approach," Navolio said in a release. "To stand by and allow money to flow out of our state that we could be using for our children's education, to provide health care for the uninsured, and to improve our local government services is wrong. This approach helps, not only our horse industry, but all of Kentucky. We're proud to be leading this discussion and look forward to working with our legislators on this issue."