Wednesday, April 28, 1999

Casino gambling issue controversial in N.Ky.




BY PATRICK CROWLEY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The prospect of casino gambling could be a major issue in Northern Kentucky, particularly in Boone County, a hotbed of Republican-driven conservative politics and ideals and the home of Turfway Park thoroughbred racetrack.

        Developer Jerry Carroll, who sold Turfway, tried for several years to use his extensive political contacts to win approval in Frankfort for allowing some sort of casino gambling — the most often mentioned type was video slot and poker terminals — at racetracks.

        Mr. Carroll and others in the racing industry, including Kentucky Derby host Churchill Downs in Louisville, said tracks needed a way to stop the money and bettors flowing to the faster paced games and big money allure of riverboat casinos in southeast Indiana and elsewhere.

        Turfway's new owners, a partnership that includes Lexington's Keeneland racetrack and companies operating gaming and online lottery subsidiaries, are beginning to say they may also pursue gambling at racetracks.

        But the plan is going to be a tough sell among Northern Kentucky lawmakers.

        “It's a bad business, and we don't want it here or need it here,” said state Rep. Paul Marcotte, R-Union, who represents Boone County in the state legislature.

        “I'm against it, and I've conducted constituent surveys, and so are the people that live here. I know there are some people who say we need a constitutional amendment, but there are times when legislators need to stand up and make the tough decisions,” he said. House Majority Caucus Chairman Jim Callahan, D-Wilder, disagreed, saying the voters deserve a say on the issue.

        “If we're going to debate and decide on if we want casino gambling in Kentucky, then the legislature should vote to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot and let the people decide,” he said.

        State Sen. Dick Roeding, R-Lakeside Park, said he probably would not have a problem with putting the issue before the voters.

        “But I think it's kind of a moot point because it wouldn't pass in Kentucky,” he said.

        Mr. Patton's plan to spend the money on horse racing and preservation projects didn't draw any support from Mr. Marcotte and Mr. Roeding.

        “There is always a noble plan attached to this issue,” Mr. Marcotte said. “We see it all across the country where gambling is trying to get in.

        “But it's still a bad idea.”

        Mr. Roeding said voters want any surplus or new money spent on lower taxes, or on social programs, including those that benefit senior citizens, children and the handicapped.

       



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