Future of gambling legislation looks dim in Kentucky legislature

jbrammer@herald-leader.comFebruary 11, 2014 

FRANKFORT — It's looking more unlikely that this year's state legislature will approve expanded gambling.

A day after Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer said there is no sentiment in the state Senate to approve the measure, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Tuesday that the House will not move a casino gambling bill if the Senate doesn't.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he understood that 20 of the 38 senators supported a constitutional amendment to expand gambling — 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats — so he was surprised when Senate GOP leaders announced Monday that they can't find enough votes.

But if it's dead in the Senate, then it's dead in the House, said Stumbo.

"If they can't pass it over there, why would we want to deal with it? We asked them to show us a good-faith effort," Stumbo asked. "It's pretty clear to me the political will is simply not present in the Senate or the Senate leadership to move that bill forward, to move that issue forward."

Thayer, R-Georgetown, said Tuesday the legislation "won't be starting in the Senate."

He said it's "interesting that the Speaker pontificates on a vote count in the Senate. It looks to me he's got his hands full counting votes down in the House."

Thayer said the Senate dealt with a constitutional amendment on expanded gambling in 2012 "and there's no desire to deal with it again down here."

The Senate leader also said Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and House Democrats should decide to move the legislation forward "if they think it's all that important."

Thayer would not say what the Senate would do if the House did take up the bill first.

"I've always been for it," he said, adding that there are fewer Democratic votes in the Senate than many people expect.

He also said there is not as much enthusiasm in the horse industry in Kentucky "as there used to be" and there are "still differences of opinion on how to approach it."

House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, said Tuesday he will keep working on his legislation.

One of his bills is a constitutional amendment to let voters decide whether they want expanded gambling. His other bill outlines the plans for implementing expanded gambling.

A Senate bill offers a constitutional amendment that specifies the number of casinos and where revenue from them would go.

Clark said he will meet next week with horse racetrack owners to discuss his proposed constitutional amendment. For his bill to have any chance to succeed, all five major tracks "have to be on the same page" by next week, Clark said.

"We're still gonna work on it, or I am, and see if we can get a unified bill we can take to the (House Democratic) caucus," Clark said.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

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