FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - A bill that would allow Kentuckians to vote whether to allow casinos with games such as slots, blackjack and craps at up to seven locations around the Commonwealth passed favorably out of committee Wednesday afternoon. After two and half hours of testimony and debate senators voted seven to four for the bill.
Governor Steve Beshear testified for the first time this session. It was before the Senate State and Local Government Committee.
"The question is whether we're going to listen to the people or whether we're going to ignore them," said Beshear.
The original bill allowed casinos at up to five horse tracks and in two other locations. Critics said it favored one industry. The language that passed allows up to seven locations.
It restricts casinos from opening within 60 miles of a horse track unless it's at the track.
"That creates a monopoly," said Sen. Dan Seum, R-Louisville. "Only Churchill Downs in our situation would be able to have a gaming or gambling license within 60 miles. That means nobody else gets to bid on this process."
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, says he may eliminate the 60 miles restriction in a floor amendment.
Still others testified about the moral implications of gambling.
"It's the collateral damage that seems to be acceptable to so many," said Rev. Hershel York of Buck Run Baptist Church.
Perhaps the most visual people in the room were employees at Churchill Downs. Dozens wore shirts in different colors with a state's name on it. For example red shirts said Indiana and yellow shirts said West Virginia to represent boarder states that allow gambling. The back read: "Getting Lucky because of Kentucky."
"We're pulling Kentuckians to Indiana to Illinois and those states are gaining our dollars," said Churchill Downs Community Relations Director Dana Johnson.
They think gambling will bring more money to the horse industry.
It still has a tough challenge on the floor because a constitutional amendment must get 23 of 38 yes votes to pass the Senate.
Floor Leader Sen. Robert Stivers says he will bring the issue up in the republican caucus before deciding when or if it gets a hearing on the floor.