Neighbors want forum, referendum on instant racing parlors at Red Mile, Keeneland

jpatton1@herald-leader.comApril 17, 2014 

People living near the Versailles Road corridor are concerned about plans for instant-racing parlors at Keeneland and The Red Mile.

Friends of Versailles Road is calling for a public forum to give Lexington residents a chance to ask questions and discuss the parlors, which the group says could affect the quality of life in neighborhoods around the tracks.

Paula Singer, president of the group and of the Hamilton Park-Westgate Neighborhood Association, also wants a ballot initiative for a referendum on whether Lexington should have the instant-racing parlors.

Vince Gabbert, vice president of Keene land, said Thursday that "there is no mechanism for a ballot initiative on an already legal, regulated entity."

Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins said it's unlikely that the group could put a legally valid question on the ballot for this fall.

"You can't have a local vote or a local ballot initiative that tries to overrule or change a state law ... unless the law specifically allows it, like local-option election for alcohol," Blevins said. "I don't see any way to stop it, short of the legislature acting."

Both Keeneland, a Thoroughbred track, and The Red Mile, a harness track, received approval this month from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to install 600 and 500 instant-racing terminals, respectively. The tracks hope to open the casinos by July 2015 and operate year-round.

Keeneland will have to go before the city's Board of Adjustment, possibly in late May, for a conditional-use permit. The Red Mile's redevelopment, part of a city-supported tax increment financing district, also might have to seek city approval for its building plans.

Red Mile officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Gabbert said Keeneland will follow proper protocols in seeking city approval.

"Everything we do is going to be in keeping with our tradition, and the context in which we do things," Gabbert said. "We're working with community groups and have already met with several."

Singer, who works in the horse industry in equine insurance, said she isn't against racing or gambling.

"It's a quality-of-life issue," Singer said. "I love the horse industry, but I love my neighborhood, too."

Singer said that with both tracks opening gambling parlors, Versailles Road "will be like the runway for people to go back and forth for gambling. It's the traffic, the pollution, the noise, the extra crime. What kinds of businesses are going to spring up along the corridor to support these people? More payday lenders? Pawn shops? Fast-food places? Is that what we want to see? We don't even have sidewalks that are pedestrian-friendly. And now, if there are 1,100 video terminals, there's going to be a lot of traffic back and forth between the two venues," which could require more city resources, she said.

It's unclear how much, if any, local taxes will be paid from instant racing revenue, which the tracks estimate will average about $250,000 a day.

"I feel strongly that we really need public forums because there are so many unanswered questions," Singer said. "I think this could really change the makeup of our corridor and the gateway to Lexington. ... If people want this, then let's do it. But there's a lot of questions."

Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: @janetpattonhl.

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