Lawmaker says he may have the votes to pass gaming amendment

Bill would allow 7 casinos in Kentucky

By Kevin Wheatley, Published:

The Senate majority caucus will soon discuss whether there are enough votes to pass a constitutional amendment allowing casino gambling in Kentucky, Caucus Chair Dan Seum said Wednesday.

Seum, a Fairdale Republican and sponsor of Senate Bill 33, said he’s close to having enough votes to pass his legislation, which would amend the constitution to allow expanded gaming at seven locations and create an Equine Excellence Fund that would collect 10 percent of gross gaming revenue. 

Because SB 33 proposes amending the state constitution, a three-fifths majority — or 23 votes — would be needed to send the measure to the House.

He declined to say exactly how many votes he must solicit before SB 33 begins churning through the legislative process. The bill, co-sponsored by Senate Minority Floor Leader R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, has been dormant in the Senate State and Local Government Committee since it was assigned there Jan. 13.

Leaders in both the House and Senate have said the other chamber should take up the measure first, but Seum said he’s prepared to break the impasse because the gaming push must start somewhere.

“We’ve been dealing with this for the last 10 years, and it’s time for us to move that out of the Senate and bring that economic development to various areas of the state,” he said.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the House is waiting to hear from Seum on the Senate’s support for SB 33. Casino measures have twice died in the Senate — once in 2010 after the House passed legislation and again in 2012 when a proposed constitutional amendment failed.

“There’s no sense in us putting any effort into that if it’s going to die in the Senate,” Stumbo said.

Seum issued a memo to legislators Wednesday reminding them of expanded gambling’s anticipated benefits — $600 million in biennial general fund receipts, $300 million in one-time licensing fees and 10,000 newly created jobs.

SB 33 does not set parameters for such a gaming industry, should voters ratify the proposed constitutional amendment. 

House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, has also proposed a constitutional amendment as well as companion legislation authorizing the sale of casino licenses for five racetrack companies — Churchill Downs, a joint Fayette County operation with Keeneland and The Red Mile, Ellis Park, Turfway Park and Kentucky Downs — and three other licenses for those hoping to open casinos in border counties.

Seum said he’s still waiting for input from officials within the horse industry on SB 33 specifically and the gaming issue generally.

“I have, but it’s not what I need,” he said, when asked whether he’s heard anything from equine professionals. “… I haven’t seen them in the hallways here, and of course if you want to rally votes, it’s a smart thing to show up here in Frankfort and talk to your legislator.”

Expanded gaming is one of two revenue-generating measures Gov. Steve Beshear publicly supports. He unveiled the other — tax reform — Tuesday.

His plan is estimated to raise about $210 million annually once its provisions are fully implemented. It includes proposals to expand the sales and retirement tax bases while offering tax relief for Kentucky-based businesses and signature industries, rate cuts for individual and corporate income taxes, and an earned income tax credit for low-wage Kentuckians.

Seum said if the General Assembly wants to raise revenue without raising taxes, expanded gambling is the only way forward. Many of the letters and emails he has received favor a constitutional amendment allowing casinos, he said.

“Right now, I would say expanded gaming would certainly be smart,” Seum said. “The tax reform is a tax increase, so if you don’t want a tax increase, you might be inclined to be pro-gaming to raise those revenues.”

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  • I never doubted that this would pass in due time.  I believe that historically these types of changes require more lobbying than usual since most lawmakers need more convincing and it seems that in most cases money has a great deal of influence on decisions made by  our lawmakers.   Think about it!