03/17/2010 11:00PM

Thayer to press on with Kentucky gaming bill


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Kentucky Sen. Damon Thayer insisted on Thursday that a bill to legalize electronic gambling machines at state racetracks was not yet dead despite the withdrawal of support from his party's leadership.

Thayer, a Republican who is a former marketing executive of the Breeders' Cup, said that he will try to convince Republicans to support the bill within the Senate over the next week in the hopes of offering the legislation for another vote in the Senate Committee on State and Local Government. The committee passed the bill last week, but Thayer withdrew the bill from a vote on Wednesday after Senate President David Williams said Republicans would not support the legislation as it was written.

"I'm going to see if I can build support for it as written to move it forward," Thayer said. "This is a last gasp on my part to help the racing industry."

The bill would authorize Instant Racing machines, a gambling device that uses historical races to generate numbers that are used to pay off winners.

Williams withdrew his support this week after offering an amendment that would require authorization from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, instead of tying approval to legislative authorization. Williams offered the amendment after groups opposed to the expansion of gambling brought up concerns about the legislation over the weekend.

Thayer said that Williams continues to oppose his version of the bill, making it highly unlikely that Thayer will be able to find enough support to pass the bill. The Kentucky legislature is scheduled to adjourn on April 13, but the session only has 10 remaining days in it, due to an upcoming two-week recess.

Officials of Kentucky racetracks have offered tepid support for the bill. Over the past several years, racetracks have lobbied aggressively for slot machines, and they have failed to support efforts by Thayer to pass legislation calling for a referendum to authorize the machines.