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Competition from tracks that have gambling noted

Kentucky racing faces increasing competition from gambling-fueled purses and incentive funds in states such as Pennsylvania and Indiana, the heads of two racetracks said Wednesday.

Nick Nicholson, president of Keeneland, described the financial situation of the racing and breeding industries for the first meeting of a task force on racing.

Ron Geary, owner of Ellis Park, said that an analysis of racing starts at Presque Isle Downs, a new racetrack in Pennsylvania that has expanded gambling, showed that from July 11 to Sept. 1, Kentucky-based trainers shipped 410 horses there to race instead of running at Ellis.

"You can see how drastically it's changing," Geary said. "That's why our committee has been appointed by the governor, and hopefully we'll find some approaches to that."

One approach — bringing slots or casino gambling to Kentucky — was shot down this year by the General Assembly.

Task force chairman Tracy Farmer, who supports expanded gambling, said the issue hasn't come up yet and he couldn't say for sure the task force would base its recommendations on that "because we were unsuccessful before."

Instituting casino gambling would require the legislature to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in a general election, which could not happen until at least 2010.

Gov. Steve Beshear listed "the need and opportunity for alternative forms of gambling" among the aspects of racing the panel is to review.