Stumbo lays out need for slots bill for committee

Perhaps laying the groundwork for a special session this summer, House Speaker Greg Stumbo made another pitch on Thursday to allow video lottery terminals at Kentucky’s horse racetracks.

Speaking to the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee and flanked by track owners, Stumbo told his fellow House members that the horse racing and breeding industry in Kentucky is facing insurmountable competition from other states.

“I believe that after you look at the facts and consider what’s happening to our state, it’s pretty obvious … that we are in jeopardy,” said Stumbo, a Prestonsburg Democrat. “We have our sister states who are stealing, or trying to steal, not only our Kentucky dollars but our Kentucky signature industry as well.”

Passing such a proposal during special session this year is likely the only way to keep Ellis Park in Henderson open for another season of racing next year, track owner Ron Geary said following the meeting.

Geary said the track is losing horses to out-of-state tracks that are able to offer larger purses because they also have on-site slot machines like those being proposed by Stumbo’s House Bill 158.

Two Indiana tracks with slot machines have also scheduled meets this summer that overlap with Ellis Park’s traditional season that runs from July 4 to Labor Day to attract many of the horses and trainers that come to Ellis to race.

“We’re petitioning, we’re encouraging and we’re begging the governor and the leadership to consider a special session before June 30,” Geary said. “If they have to deal with other revenue shortfalls in a budget situation, this could be a solution to some of that.”The committee didn’t vote on the bill, which won’t be acted on further this legislative session that has just three working days remaining.

And the measure still faces challenges, though even opponents of allowing slots at tracks said that the current state of the economy and state revenues could be generating more support.

The Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper, executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches, said the state’s population is likely still split on the issue, and the state Senate is likely still opposed as a whole to the proposal.

“I think that amongst the legislators, it still may be pretty tight and pretty questionable,” Kemper said after the meeting. “It may be wavering a little bit more.”

Kemper said her concerns still remain about the bill, particularly that she doesn’t believe the move will mean as much revenue for the state as many predict and the social costs that can come with expanding gambling could offset any monetary gain by the state.

“It becomes a zero-sum game,” Kemper said.

Stumbo said discussions about details in his proposal such as the tax rate and how the new state revenue should be spent are yet to come, but he is already seeing more interest in the proposal.

“It is a learning process for all of us on a lot of these types of issues,” Stumbo said. “People are starting to view this as at least some form of perhaps dealing with this (state revenue) problem. Whether that manifests itself into majorities in both chambers, we don’t know yet.”

Read more about House Bill 158 in Friday’s Messenger-Inquirer.

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One Response

  1. […] Stumbo lays out needs for slots bill for committee At the River’s Bend has a great article on House Speaker Stumbo’s pitch for video terminals at horse racetracks.  Read more by visiting the site. […]

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