Beshear says he is open to standalone casinos in Kentucky

LOUISVILLE — Gov. Steve Beshear again opened the possibility of stand-alone casinos, in addition to casinos at racetracks, during remarks Thursday at the Kentucky Farm Bureau annual convention.

Speaking to reporters after the luncheon, the governor indicated that he could support either a legislative option or a constitutional amendment on gambling for the 2012 ballot.

"I think most folks out there are ready to vote on expanded gambling," Beshear said. "My preference is for passing something we can get a majority vote on. If that's legislation, I'm all for it. If that's a constitutional amendment, I'm all for it. I think it's a much easier vote to put on the ballot and let the people vote on it."

He said he has been in talks with Republican and Democratic leaders in both state chambers but has not yet met with Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville. Beshear soundly defeated Williams in the Nov. 8 general election, and Beshear said yesterday that one key difference was their stand on gambling.

Responding to Beshear, Williams said, "After over four years, it seems that the governor is still formulating how he wants to address his primary agenda item: the expansion of gambling."

Beshear was elected four years ago on a promise to put forth a constitutional amendment on gambling, but his attempts to pass it, along with enabling legislation, faltered. Two years ago, an attempt to allow gambling without an amendment was passed by the House but never came to a vote in the full Senate.

State House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said in a statement, "The House has already voted once on this issue, and it is now up to the Senate to act in good faith. If they send us legislation, we will take a look at it."

Stumbo later added: "However, the majority of the House is on record in working with Governor Beshear to resolve this issue to help stabilize and save our horse industry. In that regard, I will keep an open mind on any approach."

Although Beshear said Thursday that he could support stand-alone casinos at some locations in the state, "our racetracks need to be a part of any solution on expanded gambling."

Spokeswoman Kerri Richardson said late Thursday that Beshear emphasized that any expansion of gambling must be tied to racetracks in some way.

"Whatever form expanded gaming takes, the governor wants racetracks to be a partner in the result," Richardson said.

Previously, Beshear has pushed for as many as nine casinos, with most associated with major racetracks. But more locations could bring in more revenue, a key factor with the state facing a budget shortfall. He said he does not have new revenue projections and does not plan to base the state budget on money from gambling.

"The amount of money we can raise will depend on how many facilities," Beshear said. "It's obvious we could realize significant revenues if we had expanded gaming in this state."