Beshear: Gaming necessary to help save horse industry
VLTs would be limited to tracks, provide needed revenues
FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 4, 2009) – Saying Kentucky’s horse industry is threatened with extinction, Gov. Steve Beshear today added a proposal to this month’s special legislative session to allow expanded gaming at the state’s racetracks to increase purses and breeder incentives.
“Kentucky’s horse industry – a living, breathing part of our cultural heritage and one of our strongest, most precious commodities abroad – is in a state of crisis,” Gov. Beshear told reporters today in announcing his proposal. “Some even say it’s dying.”
Gov. Beshear said the proposal – which would limit Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) to approved racetracks – would level the playing field for Kentucky’s horse industry, which has faced increasing competition from states that have increased race purses and breeder incentives from expanded gaming proceeds.
The result, he said, is that Kentucky is losing race dates at Churchill Downs; other tracks are facing closure and owners, breeders and jockeys are going elsewhere to board and race horses. About 100,000 jobs are connected with the horse industry in Kentucky, which translates into a $4 billion economic impact.
“Kentucky is, and remains, the horse capital of the world,” Gov. Beshear said. “But if we do not act, if we refuse to stand up for our signature industry, that title could be changed to Former Horse Capital of the World.
“As Governor, I cannot – and I will not – stand idly by and let that happen. Not without a fight. This proposal would allow thousands of working-class Kentuckians to continue to provide their families with a roof over their heads, food on their tables and the ability to send their kids to school.”
The Governor said his administration is continuing to work on draft legislation, which he hopes will be finalized in the coming days. He said it would contain details of how VLTs, which would be run through the Kentucky Lottery Corporation, would be taxed and generate revenue for both the state and industry.
Gov. Beshear said that while expanded gaming at the tracks would not impact the upcoming year’s budget, it would create recurring net revenues, which could help close the gap created when federal stimulus dollars are no longer available in two years. Such revenues would, undoubtedly, help with funding for schools, health care and public safety. Moreover, Gov. Beshear said, he believes the legislature can move forward with this proposal without a Constitutional amendment.
“The legislature, in our judgment, has the authority,” he said. “Now, we must determine if we have the will.”
Finally, Gov. Beshear said, that while he is willing to consider other ideas for helping one of Kentucky’s signature industries, it is time to make a decision on gaming, which has been the subject of intense debate for many years.
“Time is of the essence, and right now, this idea is the only one on the table,” he said. “It’s time to vote on it – up or down, with full knowledge of what is at stake and what is at risk … Political machinations and calculations are, frankly, not a part of my reasoning today. The unknown cannot be an excuse for timidity or inaction.
“Today, I am calling on legislators and the people of Kentucky to come forward and save the horse industry … before it is too late.”