“For nearly 15 years this issue has been discussed, debated and yet, deferred. Today, I am taking action and responding to the wishes of the vast majority of Kentuckians by sending to the General Assembly legislation that will give our citizens the opportunity to do as they have demanded – let their voices be heard on whether or not to change the state’s constitution to have limited expanded gaming,” said the governor. “Public opinion research shows that more than 80 percent of Kentucky voters want the right to vote on this issue. It’s past time we acted on that demand and be responsive to the people.”
The language of the proposed constitutional amendment limits the creation of expanded gaming facilities to up to seven licenses for horse racing tracks and up to five free-standing gaming facilities with the approval of voters in the five cities or counties where the proposed casino would be located.
Those counties include Daviess, Kenton or Campbell, Boyd or Greenup, Christian, and either Laurel or Whitely. The taxing rate on the casino revenues is spelled out and, more importantly, the allocation of those revenues for additional services and programs is specified in the legislation, according to the governor.
“We face a financial crisis in this state that is slowly destroying our ability to educate, protect and take care of our people,” said Gov. Beshear. “We no longer have the financial ability to fund the programs we should have in order to meet those needs. Nor do we have the ability to look into the future and begin to build on those opportunities to restore Kentucky’s economic viability. By allowing our fellow Kentuckians to vote on this issue, we are sending a clear message that we are joining with them in finding other ways in which to address this financial crisis.”
The fiscal impact of the proposed gaming legislation indicates total receipts for fiscal year 2009 from facility application and license fees would be approximately $500 million. The estimated gaming receipts for fiscal year 2010 would be approximately $482 million with the majority of those receipts from license fees and wagering taxes.
“If the people of Kentucky vote ‘Yes’ for limited expanded gaming, we strongly believe that the annual estimated fiscal impact of the legislation at full implementation would be approximately $600 million,” said the governor.
The legislation that would be enacted, once the constitutional amendment is approved, contains a number of measures that will assure the people of Kentucky that this initiative will be done correctly and with openness, according to the governor.
Those details include:
*Creation of a seven-member Gaming Commission with four-year terms, appointed by the governor and approved by the House and Senate, which would hire an executive director to oversee the day-to-day operations of the Commission.
*For horse racing tracks, up to seven casino licenses which would be located either at the tracks or on other property within the county in which the track is located.
*Up to five free-standing casinos with a provision that a local referendum will be held in which voters will decide to allow a free-standing casino in their city or county.
*Specific allocation of gaming tax proceeds to state and local programs including 50 percent for education, including early childhood, primary and secondary, and post-secondary; 20 percent to healthcare, including care for the indigent, seniors and children; a program for treatment of compulsive gambling will receive up to $2 million per fiscal year, 3 percent to host jurisdictions and 5 percent each to support city and county programs, with 17 percent divided among other programs including substance abuse and treatment, veterans’ programs, tourism, fish and wildlife, environmental protection, agriculture, livestock research, and agriculture easements; economic development in non-host communities. Separate accounts will be established for support of racing and to further improve the various breeds of horses found in Kentucky.
“This is a critical time for Kentucky and its citizens. Our legislators should listen to their constituents and allow them to vote on this question. There will be no better opportunity to help move Kentucky forward,” said Gov. Beshear.