02/12/2009 1:00AM

Kentucky panel backs slot machines


The Kentucky House Licensing and Occupations Committee on Thursday morning unanimously approved a bill that would legalize slot machines at the state's five racetracks, but the bill has little hope of proceeding any further this year during Kentucky's abbreviated legislative session.

The committee vote was the first step for the legislation, which was hastily scheduled for a vote by the committee late Wednesday. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Greg Stumbo, a Democrat who was elected speaker of the house earlier this year.

Leadership of the state senate is opposed to any bill authorizing slot machines this year.

The bill will now be sent to the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, but Stumbo has said it is doubtful that the committee will schedule a vote on the legislation, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

"We'll see what the discussion is" in the committee, Stumbo said after the licensing committee vote, according to the Herald-Leader. "The [horse] industry has to make its case."

The racing industry has been lobbying for slot machines for a decade in Kentucky. Legislation offered in earlier years has always called for a statewide referendum on allowing casino-type gambling, but Stumbo's bill would authorize the slot machines solely through the legislative process. Many legislators are reluctant to support an expansion of gambling without a public vote.

Kentucky's constitution prohibits the approval of any legislation that calls for a public referendum in odd-numbered years.