Politics

House Speaker Greg Stumbo will propose a constitutional amendment that would allow as many as seven casinos to open in Kentucky, with tax revenue from the businesses dedicated to public education, boosting the racing industry and shoring up the state’s ailing retirement system.

Under the proposal, the casinos would be operated by private entities and overseen by the Kentucky Lottery. They would be located in each of the state’s six congressional districts, plus one “at large” casino.

Stumbo’s initial proposal is to dedicate 40 percent of the revenue for public elementary and secondary education, 30 percent for higher education, 20 percent for the pension systems and 10 percent for the racing industry.

On Monday’s episode of KET’s Kentucky Tonight, Stumbo said it’s time for the state to vote on the expanded gambling issue.

“They’ll know where they’re going to be, they’ll know how many of them there are, and they’ll know where the money’s going to,” Stumbo said of the proposal.

The casinos would only be allowed in counties with at least 55,000 residents, and counties would have to approve the casino through a local option vote.

Expanded gambling has long been a goal for Democrats in Kentucky, with Gov. Steve Beshear making it a major part of his platforms during both of his gubernatorial races.

Such proposals have long been stymied in the Republican-led Senate.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, has opposed past efforts to expand gambling in the state. On KET Monday, Stivers reiterated his reluctance by pointing to Ohio and Indiana, which have opened to gambling with less-than-expected returns.

“They’re having to morph around their projected revenues that just haven’t come to fruition,” Stivers said.

Ohio, Illinois and Indiana all expanded gambling and collectively brought in $3.9 billion in taxes from casinos on the Ohio River in the last decade, according to a March story by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, which is a part of Louisville Public Media.

In a new release on Tuesday, Stumbo — citing that story — said Kentucky needs to capture that money before it leaves the state.

“Whether we like it or not, expanded gaming is here in Kentucky. The only question is whether we should finally benefit from it,” Stumbo said.

(Image via Steve Johnson/Creative Commons)

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.