02/20/2008 12:00AM

Kentucky panel calls for changes in casino proposal

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A committee set up by Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky recommended on Tuesday that lawmakers make significant changes to the governor's proposal to award 12 casino licenses in the state through a constitutional amendment.

The changes - including a reduction in the number of casino licenses to nine - underscore the difficulty the measure faces in the Kentucky legislature, where the state senate has shown no willingness to put the amendment on this year's ballot. The committee, which was set up late last year to study the legalization of casinos, passed the recommendations on an 8-4 vote.

The changes recommended also included deletion of language setting out how money from the casinos would be distributed. Beshear's proposed amendment would give racetracks 50 percent of the revenue from casinos and set aside an additional 15 percent for purse subsidies.

The committee also said that the language in the amendment should be changed to allow for nine casinos, of which "no more than five may be established at racetracks." Under Beshear's plan, all eight Kentucky tracks would automatically be granted licenses if they paid a license fee of between $50 million and $100 million. Another four would go to free-standing sites.

The state house's Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee was scheduled to debate the recommendations on Wednesday, but the committee adjourned on Wednesday without discussing the proposal, citing the need to study the recommendations.

Beshear, a Democrat, campaigned last year on a promise to push for a constitutional amendment legalizing casinos, but the state senate is dominated by Republicans, and any bill calling for a constitutional amendment must pass by a margin of 60-40 to get on the ballot.