A month and a half later than first promised Governor Steve Beshear pushed his casino bill into the Kentucky Senate Tuesday. The bill calls for a vote on a constitutional amendment to allow casinos. If the bill is passed by the legislature, the vote by the people would be in November.
Senator Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, is the prime sponsor of the casino amendment bill. There are five Democrat Senators and three Republican Senators as sponsors. Thayer says he expects to hear testimony on the bill in the State and Local Government Committee he chairs on February 22.
"We believe that we have fashioned something that could and should and hopefully will pass both chambers,” said Beshear, D-Kentucky.
Beshear says the issue “has reached a tipping point."
Thayer calls the timing “right.”
Senator R.J. Palmer, D-Minority Leader, says “actually it's past time."
The Family Foundation is leading the opposition to the idea of a vote by the public. "There are legal problems with writing an industry into the constitution for one thing that we're going to be investigating, but the other thing is, we just don't think they have the votes,” said Martin Cothran of The Family Foundation.
The constitutional amendment is only one page, kept “simple” according to the governor on purpose.
It would allow for up to seven casinos, two free standing and at five of the state’s eight horse racing tracks. The free standing facilities would have to be at least 60 miles from a race track with a casino.
"Our industry is united towards this approach,” said Bob Elliston, Turfway Park President.
Beshear says casinos would keep “100’s of millions” of dollars in Kentucky, but he did not have a revenue estimate. The amendment does not address at what rate the casinos would be taxed or how the revenue would be divided. Those are decisions that would be left up to lawmakers in “enabling legislation” which would be considered if the amendment passed.