06/16/2009 11:00PM

Kentucky slots supporters rally


Supporters of a bill that would legalize casino gambling at Kentucky racetracks gathered on the steps of the state capitol building in Frankfort on Wednesday as legislators met for the third day in a special session called by Gov. Steve Beshear.

Beshear, who supports the legislation, addressed the supporters, along with former Gov. Brereton Jones, the owner of Airdrie Stud, and jockey Calvin Borel, a two-time winner of the Kentucky Derby. The rally was organized in part by the Kentucky Equine Education Project, a pro-slots group that has been spearheading the racing industry's public-relations efforts over the past several years.

The legislation legalizing slots at seven racetracks and one yet-to-be-built track was introduced on Monday by Rep. Greg Stumbo, the speaker of the state house. The bill has wide support from Democrats - Beshear, Stumbo, and Jones are all Democrats - but Republicans have indicated that they are not willing to take up the bill. Democrats control the house, and Republicans control the senate.

Over the past two days, Democratic supporters of slot machines have said that $700 million in revenue from the machines would be used to rebuild schools, and they have indicated that they will attempt to add earmarks into the bill designating the funds to that purpose. In addition, Rep. Harry Moberly Jr., a Democrat, told the House Licensing and Occupations Committee Wednesday that other revenue could be used to build a $130 million science research center at the University of Kentucky.

As currently proposed, the bill would give the racing industry 75 percent of all gambling revenue for the first five years of operation - or $600 million a year, according to Beshear's estimates - with the share dropping to 65 percent after the initial five-year period. The state would keep the remainder, along with $360 million in licensing fees paid by the tracks over the first two years.