Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Lawmakers, racetracks still mum over gambling proposal

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — With only a week left to introduce legislation for the 2002 General Assembly, secrecy still shrouds the topic that will surely become the focus of the final weeks — expanded gambling.

        Some House Democratic leaders met again with race track lobbyists and representatives of the horse industry on Monday to continue work on the proposal.

        Race tracks want exclusive domain over expanded gambling, most likely in the form of slot machines at the eight licensed racing facilities.

        House Democratic Caucus Chairman Jim Callahan of Wilder said he would likely sponsor the legislation, which he hoped to introduce Tuesday.

        But Mr. Callahan declined to provide any details of the proposal, especially how proceeds of the slot machines would be divided between the state, race tracks and race purses.

        The secrecy has been used by opponents of expanded gambling to make their point that the idea is not in the best interests of ordinary Kentuckians.

        And the opposition is a concern. House Democratic floor leader Greg Stumbo, an advocate of the proposal, said the bill could lie dormant in the House until the Senate sends a a clear message about its chances for passage.

        Support among legislators for expanded gambling is difficult to gauge. Opponents, notably the two top Senate Republicans and House Speaker Jody Richards, have been out front with their positions. Supporters have been far more difficult to pin down.

        Senate President David Williams of Burkesville and GOP floor leader Dan Kelly of Springfield have announced their opposition to expanded gambling and said they sense little support for it.

        The last day to introduce a bill in the House is March 4. The last day to introduce a bill in the Senate is March 6, though the gambling proposal is certain to begin in the House.


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