Slots bill to receive hearing on Thursday

After a flurry of attention earlier this session, a bill that would allow video lottery terminals at Kentucky’s horse racetracks is set for another hearing Thursday.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo (LRC photo)

House Speaker Greg Stumbo (LRC photo)

House Speaker Greg Stumbo told reporters this afternoon that the hearing will allow lawmakers to become more educated about House Bill 158, but no vote will be called on the bill in the final days of this year’s session.

“We’ve always said that that bill needed some more vetting,” Stumbo told reporters. “The hearing tomorrow hopefully will bring to light some of the problems and/or facts associated with critical issues in that bill.”

Stumbo didn’t rule out the possibility that the measure could be included in a special legislative session held this summer, but said that decision is Gov. Steve Beshear‘s to make.

The bill is generating more interest late in this year’s legislative session, Stumbo said, and it is one of the things on the table as the General Assembly looks ahead to balancing next fiscal year’s budget.

“It’s being talked about more favorably now than it was in early January,” Stumbo said.

The announcement this week by Ellis Park owner Ron Geary that he may close the Henderson track next year has elicited more interest in the bill, Stumbo said.

“That’s pretty real evidence that this problem that our tracks are having is real and that it’s imminent,” Stumbo said.

The bill will be called during the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee meeting which begins at 10 a.m. EDT.

Update, 5:22 p.m. …

Stumbo will be joined at the meeting by Geary, Nick Nicholson who is president and CEO of Keeneland in Lexington, and the Innovation Group, a national consultant on matters involving the gaming, leisure and hospitality industries, according to Stumbo’s office.

Video lottery terminals bill to receive hearing Thursday

House Bill 158 will be heard by the House Licensing and Occupations Committee at 9 a.m. Thursday during a special meeting of the committee. 

The bill would permit the state’s horse racing tracks to install video lottery terminals that bill sponsor House Speaker Greg Stumbo said would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars for the state, but isn’t expected to help solve the state’s budget woes this year.

House L&O committee to take up slots bill Wednesday

The House Licensing and Occupations Committee will have an informational hearing Wednesday in Frankfort on House Bill 158, the piece proposed by House Speaker Greg Stumbo that would allow video lottery terminals at the state’s horse race tracks. 

The measure would generate up to $700 million annually once fully implemented, but is unlikely to have an immediate impact on the state’s $456 million budget shortfall this fiscal year, according to Stumbo. 

The House and Senate are currently in a three-week recess during this year’s “short” legislative session, which is set to end in late March.

Here’s the announcement of the hearing from Rep. Dennis Keene, who was recently named to head the committee. 

Frankfort, KY:  Rep. Dennis Keene, (D-Wilder), today announced that the House Licensing and Occupations (L&O) Committee will meet Wednesday, January 21st at 10 a.m. in Room 129 of the Capital Annex to hear testimony on House Bill 158.

House Bill 158, filed by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, would allow video lottery terminals at seven of Kentucky’s eight racetracks.

“We’ll be taking testimony from all sides of this issue over the next couple of weeks,” said Rep. Keene, the new chair of the L&O Committee.  “All interested parties are encouraged to share their input.”

 Speaker Stumbo and representatives from Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP), the Kentucky Association of Counties (KACO), the Kentucky Lottery Corporation, the Kentucky County Judge/Executive Association, and other organizations are scheduled to testify.

 “Now, more than ever, we need to consider all revenue-producing ideas for the state,” said Rep. Keene.  “We simply cannot afford to close much needed health care programs, lay off teachers or state employees, raise tuition at our colleges, or impose other painful measures that attempt to balance the budget on the backs of our citizens.”


Second lawmaker to push slot machine plan

Rep. Greg Stumbo, a Prestonsburg Democrat, has released a working version of legislation he plans to file next year that would allow “video lottery terminals” at ractracks around the state.

The bill puts the operation of the video lottery terminals, which appear to be similar if not the same as video slot machines, under the supervision of the Kentucky Lottery Corp. The machines would only be allowed at horse race tracks and only with the approval of the local government, according to the bill.

Video lottery terminal is defined in the bill as a machine that “uses a video display or spinning reels or both and microprocessors in which by chance the player may receive free games, coins, tokens, or credits that may be redeemed for cash.”

According to the release from Stumbo’s office, “revenue would be distributed to primary education, to offset the state’s share of personal property taxes on motor vehicles and motorboats and to approved tracks to enhance the size of purse offerings.”

Unlike the proposal announced last week by Rep. Tom Burch, a Louisville Democrat, Stumbo’s plan would not limit the number of machines in the state.

Burch is working on a bill that would allow up to 18,000 slot machines around the state, with 6,000 of those allotted to horse race tracks. Slots would only be allowed when approved by local government, according to Burch’s plan.

This week’s announcement by Stumbo doesn’t come as a complete surprise, given that he had tossed out this idea after rejoining the legislature this year. And as attorney general, Stumbo issued an opinion that allowing slot machines in the state would not require a constitutional amendment, as would be the case if casinos moved into Kentucky.

Columnist Larry Dale Keeling with the Herald-Leader has a take on Stumbo’s slots announcement, which comes just days before the annual Fancy Farm picnic and among speculation – fueled in part by Stumbo’s own comments recently – that the former House majority floor leader is considering a run for speaker of the House.