03/15/2006 1:00AM

Kentucky slot measure's wording altered


A committee of the Kentucky House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a measure that would call for a referendum on casino gambling in Kentucky using stripped-down language that does not identify which sites would be eligible to open casinos.

The measure was introduced in the Kentucky House Licensing and Occupations Committee as a substitute for a measure that would have asked voters in November whether casino gambling should be allowed at eight Kentucky racetracks and three other sites. The measure, which will now be sent either to the House floor or another House committee, simply states that voters should decide whether the General Assembly can authorize casino gambling at "no more than nine sites."

Horse racing officials who supported more specific language said Wednesday that they were caught off-guard by the measure, and that they doubted that legislation authorizing the referendum will be passed this session. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn on March 28.

"The biggest obstacle that we have is grandfather time," said David Switzer, the executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Assoc-iation, which has supported a horse racing advocacy group called the Kentucky Equine Education Project that has spent approximately $1 million on a marketing campaign in support of casinos at tracks.

"We're on day 52 of a 60-day session," Switzer said, "and to get anything through the House, then through a committee of the [Senate], then to the full Senate, on something like this, would be quite an accomplishment."

If a bill is not passed during this session, supporters of casino gambling will not be able to get another constitutional referendum on the ballot until 2008.

The Kentucky Equine Education Project has supported a measure that would not only identify the sites where casinos would be located, but also provide specifics on how revenue from casinos would be divided between the state and the racing industry. The measure passed Wednesday would allow the legislature to determine how revenue would be distributed.