Potential for Tribal Casino Has Industry on Alert

Kentucky's horse racing industry is concerned that a group whose members claim to be descendents of the Cherokee Indian tribe may be seeking legislative recognition to ultimately gain approval for casino gambling.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reported Friday that the Beaver Creek Native American Tribe of Albany, Ky., would be recognized by a resolution floating around Kentucky's General Assembly. Its sponsor, Rep. Charlie Siler, told the newspaper that casino gambling isn't mentioned in the group's business plan.

David Switzer, executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, said the resolution hasn't come before a committee, and the KTA would prefer it. "We're actively opposing it, not because we have anything against Native Americans, but because we don't need Indian casino compacts in Kentucky," he said.

States such as California and Michigan have tribal gaming, which came about by federal law in the late 1980s. Compacts have allowed the tribes to operate lucrative casinos that, in some cases, have adversely impacted the horse racing industry.

Kentucky's racetracks compete with riverboat casinos along the Ohio River in Illinois and Indiana. To the east, A West Virginia Greyhound track with video lottery terminals and slot machines is located less than an hour from the Kentucky border.

Silver told the Courier-Journal the resolution directs the Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission to set guidelines to recognize tribes. If the resolution is addressed, the House Economic Development Committee will tackle it.