On January 27th, 2009, if there is a race among the states looking to cut back their budget deficits by expanded gambling, the state of Kentucky is probably on the forefront. Based on the general reaction to a gaming proposal last week that would place video lottery machines in Kentucky’s horse racing tracks, Kentucky is on the fast track to gambling expansion. The proposal, which is sponsored by Democratic Representative Greg Stumbo, the brand new House Speaker, was unopposed. The Stumbo proposal states that the Kentucky Lottery Corporation would oversee the slot operations at the racing tracks and that there would be no constitutional amendment needed. In the past elections, gambling referendums have been dismissed by the state voters.
The proposal predicts that after 5 years of operation, the slot machines would contribute a total of $1.2 billion to the general fund. But the additional revenue was not the only main goal behind the VLT proposal. Of vital concern is the effect that slot machines at other racing tracks have been having on the quality of horse racing in the state. A lot of people hope that the proposal would help Kentucky maintain its number one position in the industry. Nick Nicholson, the president of the Keeneland Race Course said that other states have seen VLT gambling as a profitable industry to have.
Nicholson warned that the reality is that while unparalleled growth has been going on in other states, Kentucky horse racing has been on the standstill. He added that if they will not do something now, Kentucky is on the verge of being overtaken by other states that have horse racing. Nicholson said that the horse racing industry has predicted that within 2 years, the states on the East Coast that have allowed VLT installations will possess monetary resources of more than $1.2 billion while the slowing business in Kentucky will mean meager purses as betting declines.
Although there was no outright criticism to the bill, it was noted by other legislators that the proposal will be probably change when it is reviewed during the 1st week of February. Talks will center on how much each racing track should give the state in order to get a VLT approval. Indications were that the propose license cost of $25,000 was too little. Other states considering gambling expansion are Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio and Alabama were a recent survey conducted among voters showed a favorable attitude towards expanded gambling.