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Kentucky Rep. Larry Clark Files Pair of Expanded Gaming Bills

A Kentucky lawmaker has filed a pair of bills that will again bring the issue of expanded gaming before the General Assembly.State Rep. Larry Clark, a Louisville Democrat, has pre-filed legislation that would place a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 2014 ballot asking Kentucky voters if they permit "the General Assembly to pass laws authorizing casino gaming?” according to language in BR 108.Clark's companion gaming bill, BR 109, would establish the Kentucky Gaming Commission, a body comprised of nine members appointed by the governor that would regulate up to eight casinos under the proposed legislation, with an annual operational budget of no more than $5 million.Out of a total estimated $830 million in gross revenue generated by the casinos, about $286 million of that amount would be collected in state taxes from casinos by the measure, according to an estimate conducted by the Legislative Research Commission.

"This legislation will create a new revenue source to support education, stabilize public pensions, boost local cities and county governments, and provide more treatment options for gambling and substance addiction," Clark said in a prepared statement. "At the same time, we will protect our signature equine industry, a crucial component of Kentucky’s agriculture economy.”The bill would pave the way for the creation of up to eight casinos in Kentucky: Five casinos that would be added to existing racetracks across the state, and three standalone casinos to be competitively bid. Licenses for the first five years of casino operation would cost at least $50,000,000 each, according to Clark's bill, and would be paid to the newly created commission.The $286 million in tax revenue would be placed into the general fund, with half that amount to be allocated for "early childhood, primary, secondary and post secondary education," at $143 million.A further 10 percent—or $28.6 million—would be set aside for the Kentucky public Pension Stabilization Fund. As of 2012, the Kentucky Retirement System's pension shortfall was an estimated $26 billion.Nearly $23 million would be distributed to city and county public safety entities in locations hosting the casinos to pay for salary and equipment costs associated with expected increases in police, fire and EMS services in those areas, and a further $8.58 million would be paid as a kickback to municipal or county governments that contain the casinos.And $71.5 million would be placed into the general fund without any strings attached, and could be spent however the General Assembly sees fit.Although the majority of the $830 million in gross revenue would go toward casino profits, Jonathan Blue, a Louisville businessman and co-chair of the pro-gaming group Kentucky Wins, says the taxable revenue is revenue that wasn’t there before, and it raises that money without raising taxes on existing businesses.“Financially, it’s quantifiable," Blue said of the amount. "But it’s an astronomical number that we can bring into the state without one cent of new taxes. You can’t do that with any other business enterprise.”Blue says Kentucky Wins is also working with Sen. Dan Seum, a Fairdale Republican, on similar legislation, which is expected to be introduced soon.Expanded gambling legislation has been introduced many times in years past, and has never cleared the State House.