01/12/2009 1:00AM

New slots bill in Kentucky


The new speaker of Kentucky's house of representatives has pre-filed a bill authorizing slot machines at the state's racetracks.

Rep. Bob Stumbo, a Democrat who narrowly defeated the longtime speaker of the state house Jody Richards for the house's top leadership position last Tuesday, filed the legislation on Friday, three weeks before the legislature reconvenes for the final 26 days of its 30-day 2009 session.

The bill would limit slot machines to existing racetracks, and would require that the Red Mile and Keeneland, two tracks in Lexington, share ownership of a casino. Racetracks would retain 75 percent of the first $100 million in net revenue from the slot machines, and 65 percent of all revenue above $100 million. The state would receive the rest.

The bill would need a 60-percent majority in the house and senate to pass. The Democratic-controlled house may have enough votes to pass the measure, but the senate's president, David Williams, a Republican, has said that the senate has no desire to pass an expanded gambling bill this year.

Stumbo's bill differs from previous attempts to authorize slot machines in Kentucky because it does not require a constitutional amendment.

Before being elected to the state house this year, Stumbo was Kentucky's attorney general, and he had earlier released an opinion that said that the authorization of slot machines at racetracks would not require a referendum.

That opinion has been disputed by legislators who are fearful of passing an expanded gambling bill without voter support.

Polls in Kentucky have consistently shown that the vast majority of voters believe that any measure expanding gambling should be offered in a referendum. Legislation establishing referenda in Kentucky can only be offered in even-numbered years.