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Kentucky horse bill faces big change

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Supporters of legislation meant to bolster
Kentucky's racing industry were sent backtracking Tuesday to revamp
a key provision before it goes before the Senate.
Sen. Damon Thayer, the proposal's lead supporter, said a new
version being drafted would drop legislative authorization of
Instant Racing at Kentucky's race tracks. It would retain a 1.5
percent fee on Instant Racing wagers should the new form of
gambling on old horse races be approved through a gubernatorial
executive order or by action from the Kentucky Horse Racing
Commission.
Thayer, R-Georgetown, said the revision was set to be considered
Wednesday by the Senate committee that he leads as chairman. If the
committee approves the changes, he was hopeful that the full Senate
would take up the measure later in the day.
Thayer said the changes were made after Senate President David
Williams, R-Burkesville, indicated to him that a compromise was
needed for it to move.
"I believe Instant Racing is another form of pari-mutuel
wagering," Thayer said. "Not everybody agrees with me. I've
struck a compromise to try to keep the issue moving foward so that
we can provide some sustainable and immediate relief for the horse
industry."
Instant Racing is a game in which gamblers bet on past races
without knowing the names of the horses. Thayer has said it has
been a big success at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, where track
officials credit the game with helping make millions in extra prize
money for living racing.
Under the Kentucky bill, money generated from a 1.5 percent tax
on Instant Racing wagers would flow into a fund to supplement race
purses for Kentucky-bred horses at Kentucky tracks.
Williams said Senate action on the bill would not signal its
approval for expanded gambling.
"This will accomplish what the intent of the legislation was,
and that is if it (Instant Racing) happens, to put 1.5 percent on
it to take care of the purses," Williams said.
Gov. Steve Beshear has said he supports the concept of Instant
Racing. He said the measure is an acknowledgement that Kentucky's
signature horse industry is facing serious problems. But Beshear
said he would withhold judgment on the legislation until he sees a
final product.
The measure would return to the House if it passes the Senate.
The House version only included a tax on bets made through online
and telephone betting services.
The legislation comes amid worries that Kentucky's racing
industry is falling behind as tracks elsewhere have sweetened
purses by offering casino-style gaming.
Beshear has been a strong proponent of expanding gambling at
Kentucky race tracks by allowing video slot machines, and his
budget proposal assumed $780 million in new revenue from the slots.
But the proposal has been a nonstarter with lawmakers this year.
The measure being pushed by Thayer would also impose a 1.5
percent tax on Internet wagering of Kentucky horse races. That
proposal seeks a share of the money from the growing popularity of
online and phone betting. That revenue would also go to boost live
racing in Kentucky.
The bill would also do away with the state's two-tiered
pari-mutuel taxing system for wagering at the tracks. Instead, it
would set a flat rate of 1.5 percent.
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The legislation is House Bill 368.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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