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Kentucky Casino and Card Room Gaming

Kentucky does not allow casino gaming, and the outlook for commercial gaming doesn't look good. In February 2014, Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer said the Republican-controlled Kentucky Senate was not interested in considering casino legislation.

There have been multiple attempts to legalize casino gaming and to allow slots at racetracks. One of the first attempts was in March 2006, with a proposal to legalize slots to raise money for educational programs and Medicaid. The bill never made it to committee, a move that effectively killed it for the session.

February 2007 saw another attempt to legalize casino gambling. This time the House of Representatives proposal included both slots at racetracks and casinos. The bill consisted of nine casinos: five at racetracks and four at non-track locations. Tracks included in the proposal were Churchill Downs, Kentucky Downs and Turfway Park. Due to the November gubernatorial election, the legislation did not move forward.

In November 2007, Kentucky elected pro-gambling Gov. Steve Beshear (D). The election pushed House Speaker Jody Richards to create a "work study" group to consider allowing casinos into the state. The group gathered ideas and research to start putting together a bill. In January 2008, a lawmaker on the House subcommittee studying the issue expressed frustration at the lack of communication between the legislature and the governor about his bill.

In February 2008, Beshear announced the details of his proposal for expanded gambling. He wanted to allow the voters to decide whether to amend the constitution to allow more gambling. The amendment would allow up to seven licenses for racetracks and up to five casinos. The proposal also included the creation of a seven-member Gaming Commission, with four-year terms, appointed by the governor and approved by the legislature. Revenue from the casinos would be used to support education, health care, treatment for compulsive gambling, the host communities and other state and local causes. The state House amended the bill to lower the number of casinos allowed, require local approval for racetracks to add casinos and change the wording of the ballot question. In June 2009, the House passed the legislation. It was then sent to the Senate, where it was rejected by the Appropriations and Revenue Committee.

In January 2009, Rep. Burch announced a pre-filed bill in the Kentucky General Assembly that would place slot machine gambling under restrictions similar to those for alcohol. The measure would let voters in each county decide whether to allow video lottery terminals (VLTs) to be placed in certain locations, including horse tracks. Rep. Burch claimed the measure was different from the casino gambling legislation filed the previous year because casinos offer different ways of gambling. The bill would give the state 15% of the machines' revenue back to state and local governments. The bill failed to pass.

Also in January 2009, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he would not call a vote on a bill to expand gambling until he had support from 60 of the 100 House members. In the same month he filed a bill (HB 158) to expand gambling at the state's racetracks. In February 2009, the bill passed the House Licensing and Occupations Committee without opposition and moved to the Appropriations and Revenue Committee, where it failed to pass.

In December 2011, Governor Beshear introduced an amendment to the state constitution that would bring casinos to Kentucky. The measure was defeated in February 2012, when it was finally presented to the Senate.

Two bills were introduced in the General Assembly in 2013 regarding casino gambling. On 8 January, Rep. Keene (D – Wilder) filed HB 52 to create casino gaming without requiring a constitutional amendment. Approval would be at the local level, with cities over 90,000 in population and hosting a racetrack being allowed to vote. The Lottery Commission would oversee seven casinos estimated to generate $295 million a year for the state. Casino revenue would benefit programs such as economic development, early childhood education and the state pension program. The bill died in the Licensing and Occupations Committee. On 20 February, Rep. David Osborne (R – Prospect) filed HB443, calling for an amendment to the Constitution to legalize casino gambling in the state. The amendment mandated a maximum of seven locations and provided for regulation and the use of casino revenue for job creation, education, human services, health care, veterans programs, local governments, public safety and the support of the horse industry. The bill was adjourned sine die the following day.

Proponents of casino gaming cite recent polls where more than 60% of Kentuckians favor state gaming. Legislators, including Gov. Beshear, have contended that Kentucky has been losing about $500 million to $700 million in tax revenue each year to bordering states such as Indiana and Ohio that allow casino gaming. Revenue shortfalls the state has been experiencing make it likely that legislation calling for a constitutional referendum on authorizing casinos will be reintroduced.

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