FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) – Supporters of bringing casinos to Kentucky, long frustrated by efforts in the legislature, said 2014 provided the best chance yet for the proposal because of the state's budget crunch.
Rep. Larry Clark, D-Louisville, presented legislation to a House committee Wednesday that would ask voters on November's ballot whether to legalizing casino gaming. Kentucky's budget situation creates a good opportunity to sell casinos, which would create tax revenue, to voters, he said.
Companion legislation would allow for eight casinos in Kentucky, of which five would go to racetracks. The others would be located along Interstates 24, 64 and 75 in counties that border other states, Clark said.
"The product we're talking about is gaming, but we're losing revenue," he said. "That's something you all (committee members) have got to think about."
Lawmakers have debated the casino question in Kentucky for years, with legislative roadblocks coming up in every session.
"We've heard this same talk for 15 years, and the legislature has said 'No' for 15 years," said Martin Cothran of the Family Foundation of Kentucky. "We think we should just move on to other issues."
Casinos would take spending money away from other Kentucky businesses, Cothran said.
Clark said each casino operator would need to pay a $50 million license fee to the state. If voters approved the ballot measure this year, the state could start generating revenue in 2015, he said.
One of the licenses would go to Churchill Downs, and Clark said the casino could be located either at the racetrack or in downtown Louisville.
Rep. Dennis Keene, D-Wilder and chairman of the House Licensing Committee, said that he wanted to hold a vote "sooner rather than later" on Clark's bill.
Opponents to the legislation are scheduled to testify before Keene's committee next week.
Sen. Dan Seum, R-Fairdale, has sponsored a different bill that would ask voters to legalize casinos. That legislation hasn't yet had a hearing in a Senate committee.