Hopes Dim for Kentucky Expansion

With the state Senate short several votes and uncertainty in the House, the prospects of a constitutional amendment to legalize casinos in Kentucky are fading fast.

It looks like expansion of gambling in Kentucky to include casinos is headed for yet another legislative defeat. The state Senate sponsor of a bill that would create a constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling says he is three votes short of the 23 he would need for the bill to pass the chamber by the required three-fifths majority.

Majority Caucus Chairman Dan Seum of Louisville said he will continue pressing his case with the other senators, but that the Senate will wait for results of two gaming expansion bills in the House.

That’s not too good a bet either. Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, sponsor of the two House measures—one to create a constitutional amendment legalizing casinos and another enabling bill to set out the rules—told the Louisville Courier-Journal last week that while gaming expansion is “not dead yet,” it is definitely “at the funeral home.”

Part of the lack of House support, Clark said, is the fact that his enabling bill does not guarantee racetrack owners enough of a cut of revenues. He is negotiating with them this week. “The only way we could pass casino gaming now is that all five of the tracks come together with one unified legislation,” Clark told the newspaper. “We’re moving forward, but we’re taking baby steps. Next week we’ve got to either bring it to closure or move forward.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, meanwhile, said he does not want to push a House bill forward without sufficient Senate support to pass a constitutional amendment, citing a racino bill passed by the chamber in 2009 that died in the Senate. “There’s no use in the House taking up a bill that’s just going to die over there of that magnitude,” Stumbo told the Courier-Journal. “I don’t see any reason to put any effort into it.”