Local/Regional News
4:25 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

House Democrats Float Instant Racing As Solution To Pension Woes

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Horse racing tracks could generate up to $30 million a year in tax revenue for the state's financially troubled pension system if they installed slot-like machines and then taxed the proceeds, the House Speaker said Friday.

Credit bloodhorse.com

In Kentucky, actual slot machines are banned, but two horse tracks have installed similar "Instant Racing" machines that allow people to wager on the outcomes of past horse races.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he believes Instant Racing could generate wagers totaling $1 billion a year if expanded to additional tracks. Taxing those wages could be a boon to the pension system.

Stumbo told reporters that Instant Racing would be part of one proposal to fund pensions. The Democratic caucus will consider three or four proposals next week. Stumbo also has suggested raising the state's cigarette tax from 60 cents to $1 a pack in a move he said could generate $100 million a year for the pension system.

He declined to elaborate on other proposals.

"We're trying to get everything together in a neat package that's been vetted and that we know is accurate before we can give it to the caucus," he said.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Machester, told reporters it's as if Stumbo is simply tossing ideas against a wall and seeing which ones might stick.

Senate Floor Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said the Legislature should wait on the Instant Racing proposal until the Kentucky Supreme Court rules on its legality. The state's highest court announced in January that it will review lower court rulings regarding Instant Racing, which critics contend is no different than illegal slot machines.

A spokesman for The Family Foundation, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, said Friday that Instant Racing proponents are saying one thing to the courts and something completely different to the General Assembly.

"For over two years, they've been telling the courts that Instant Racing is already legal and now they're telling the General Assembly that they need a law to make it legal," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for the group.

"If Instant Racing is legal, a bill legalizing it wouldn't be necessary would it?" Cothran asked.