Bill introduced that will let Kentuckians vote on expanded gaming

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - After lots of talk the bill is out that would allow voters to decide if casino gaming should be legal in the Bluegrass. Gov. Steve Beshear has been fighting to get casino games into the Commonwealth for years.

Tuesday morning, a member of the opposing party file a bill to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. WAVE 3 first broke the story a few weeks ago that Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, would be filing the bill.

"Here it is--the long awaited legislation proposing to amend Kentucky's constitution related to casino gambling," said Thayer holding an envelope.

Thayer joined Beshear making the announcement to a room full of media, lobbyists, staff, and other onlookers. The Governor estimates that expanded gaming could bring in hundreds of millions in taxes annually to the General Fund.

Beshear listed the places that money would go--"Job creation, education, human services, health care, veterans programs, local governments, public safety, and the support of the horse industry."

The bill would allow casinos with games like slots, blackjack, craps at up to five horse tracks and two "other locations." There are some restrictions of where the "other locations" could be. For example there won't be a free standing casino downtown if Churchill Downs gets one.

"They're not guaranteed to get a casino, but a casino, a free standing casino couldn't be located within 60 miles of a licensed race track," said Beshear.

While legislators from both chambers and on both sides of the aisle stood by the Governor, some of those listening in continue to be against it.

"This is the first time one industry has been given box seats in the constitution like this," said Martin Cothran of the Family Foundation of Kentucky. "We just think there are no orchestra seats in the Kentucky constitution."

Cothran calls it an "abuse of the State Constitution" and doesn't think it has the votes to pass.

"We see no more than 19 votes for this," said Cothran.

Thayer says it could go either way, but it's up to the Governor to lobby members to support it.

If the bill does pass both chambers it could go to Kentucky voters in November.

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