Kentucky’s Expanded Gambling Plans Lose Ground

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Two Kentucky GOP legislators representing the Owensboro region and a Democrat member on a state task force for horse-racing-related gambling said that there is little or no chance of a Frankfort gambling bill being passed in the 2022 session.

Kentucky’s Expanded Gambling Efforts Derailed

Ellis Entertainment announced plans to build a historic simulcasting facility and historic horse racing facility for $16.7 million on October 26. Legislators passed a bill earlier this year that allows horse tracks to be located within 60 miles of a track for simulcasting racing and historical racing gaming.

In the past, attempts to legalize expanded gambling like casino-style in Kentucky were unsuccessful. Despite the fact that lawmakers allowed simulcasting off-track and historical horse racing machine gambling in this session, the General Assembly will focus its attention on other issues in 2022, according to local legislators.

Representative Suzanne Miles is an Owensboro Republican who is also a member of the House’s GOP leadership. She stated in a Thursday message that the leadership will be focusing more on the next state budget than any other issues.

Miles added that the main focus of the session would be on the budget due to the complicated circumstances with COVID money and ARPA money from the federal government. “The main focus I have right now is working on the budget, and I think that would be the focus or leadership is looking at,” she explained.

Owensboro Republican Rep. DJ Johnson said that he hasn’t heard from any lawmakers about an expanded gambling bill. Frankfort has not received any bills to expand gambling. He stated that lawmakers will need to determine what happens to the historic horse racing facilities and off-track simulcasting before considering any gambling legislation.

The Underlying Reasons

Both the Kentucky Senate and the House are controlled by Republicans. One lawmaker stated that Democrats would support such legislation, but said that there are not enough of them for it to matter. “When you talk about any kind of expanded gaming at all, I would say the only (possibility) is sports wagering,” Representative Al Gentry said.

The bill that allowed simulcasting off-track and historical horse racing machines created the task force. It is currently examining how tax dollars are allocated and how horse racing-related wagering is taxed. A portion of the revenues is currently used to pay track purses, breeder’s funds, and universities with equine programs.

Gentry stated that members of the committee are looking at making changes in how horse racing-related income is distributed. He also suggested that some funds could be used to help those suffering from gambling addiction. This option, though, does have bipartisan support.

Rep Jim Gooch of Providence stated that a bill to expand gambling such as casino-style gambling is unlikely in the coming session. He asserted, “I don’t expect something along those lines to move this session. We are going to be tackling redistricting and the budget.”

Gooch, a representative of Webster, McLean, and parts Daviess and Hopkins, stated that an expanded gaming bill wouldn’t be an expansion for Webster County residents.

Legislators had difficulty passing a bill earlier in the year. They were only motivated to act after the Supreme Court declared historical horse racing machines at certain tracks were not pari-mutuel gambling.

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