06/05/2009 12:00AM

Slots on agenda in Kentucky


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Video lottery terminals at racetracks will be on the Kentucky legislature's agenda when it convenes June 15 for a special session called by Gov. Steve Beshear.

Beshear amended his initial agenda Thursday afternoon to include the slots. Racetrack operators and many other industry interests, including breeders, have lobbied for the machines in the face of gaming-fueled competition in nearby racing states.

Under Kentucky law, only the governor can call a special session and set the agenda.

In a statement announcing the revised agenda, Beshear said: "Kentucky is, and remains, the horse capital of the world. But if we do not act, if we refuse to stand up for our signature industry, that title could be changed to former horse capital of the world.

"As governor, I cannot - and I will not - stand idly by and let that happen. Not without a fight. This proposal would allow thousands of working-class Kentuckians to continue to provide their families with a roof over their heads, food on their tables, and the ability to send their kids to school."

Beshear, a Democrat, maintains that taxes on slots at tracks will add recurring net revenue to state coffers, though not quickly enough to offset Kentucky's projected $996 million budget shortfall for 2010. Beshear said his administration is working on draft legislation for slots at tracks and could have that information prepared "in the coming days."

Republican senate president David Williams, who opposes expanded gambling, has proposed lifting Kentucky purses by such measures as taxing out-of-state wagering, placing a surcharge on lottery tickets, and dedicating revenue from existing taxes on feed, hay, horse sales, and other horse-related products.

It is unclear whether Beshear will add Williams's proposal to the agenda, and it also is unclear whether the state constitution allows expanded gambling or must be amended to allow it. Kentucky's attorney general is considering the latter issue.