Bill would allow 18,000 slot machines in Kentucky

Following the failure earlier this year of Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear's push for casinos, Rep. Tom Burch is writing legislation for the 2009 General Assembly that would allow 18,000 slot machines in Kentucky.

Burch, D-Louisville, issued a statement Monday saying that roughly 6,000 of those slots would be spread around at the eight horse racing tracks, while the others would be available to counties whose citizens vote to approve them.

”The time has come to either pass a bill regarding gambling or stop wasting taxpayers' dollars debating the issue,“ Burch said in the statement. ”This bill would allow each and every county to have slot machines, but only if each county so desires to have them.“

The number of slot machines at racetracks would be determined by the number of 2008 race days, according to the outline of Burch's bill. Turfway Park, with 110 race days this year, would be eligible for the most machines at 1,400. In Lexington, Keene­land could get 545 machines, while The Red Mile could be allotted 740 machines.

Burch's bill would not require a constitutional amendment, according to his statement. Beshear had pushed to change the amendment to allow for full casinos, but that proposal was rewritten in the House and stalled before getting a vote by the full chamber.

Rep. Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said earlier this summer that he was drafting a bill to allow slot machines just at racetracks, potentially on a trial basis. Stumbo, a former attorney general, said he didn't think his proposal would require changing the constitution.

Proponents of casinos, including Beshear, have argued that allowing additional gambling, whether just slots or full-blown casinos, would generate several hundred million dollars in state revenue.

Burch said his plan for 18,000 slot machines would do that and would bolster purses at the tracks to ”help horse owners who race in Kentucky.“

”It also attempts to lure tourists to Kentucky in a quiet way, without all the flashing lights that casinos would bring,“ said Burch, referring to one of the key concerns of lawmakers about allowing full casinos.

Opponents of expanded gambling, however, have argued that the social costs, particularly of problem gamblers, would cancel out any increase in state revenue.