Casino Operator Defends $1 Million Political Contribution

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A wealthy casino operator is defending an eye-catching $1 million contribution to a political group that worked to elect a pro-gambling governor in Kentucky.

William Yung III, who heads Crestview Hills-based Columbia Sussex Corp., has essentially placed a huge bet that newly elected Gov. Steve Beshear will be able to get the state's long-standing prohibition against casinos lifted.

"I make no apologies for helping get Steve Beshear elected," Yung told The Associated Press in an interview this week. "I've got a First Amendment right to spend my money any way I want to spend it."

Beshear is proposing an amendment to the state constitution that would allow up to seven casinos to be built at Kentucky horse tracks and five others in communities along the state's borders with Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia. That many casinos, he said, could generate $600 million a year in tax revenue for a cash-strapped state government.

The proposal is a long shot in a Bible-belt state where lawmakers have rejected numerous other casino proposals over the past decade. If it passes, Yung plans to open a casino on a northern Kentucky site he bought just last month for $7 million.

"Absolutely, we're gambling on it," Yung said. "We don't know if it's going to pass or not."

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