House Speaker continues to pursue "loser" attempt to expand gaming in Kentucky

Last week the Kentucky House of Representatives Speaker Greg Stumbo said that a measure to expand land gambling in the state had been put "on the back burner" to address more important budget and financial issues, and that it may not be voted on at all during the current legislative session, which ends on March 27 (see previous InfoPowa report).

Was this the case, or has there been some more political sleight-of-hand as the state tries to find money to close a yawning budget gap? Because this week the slightly modified measure was pushed through the legislative House Licensing and Occupations Committee, where it achieved 'overwhelming' support.

Stumbo was cautious in victory, saying that the support from the Committee shouldn't be viewed as an indication that the legislation will become law this year.

"It's my speculation at this time, on this day, that I doubt it has enough support to pass this chamber," Stumbo said. "That may change. We're still in session. We still have about a month and a half to go. But I think it's worthy that the bill go through the process."

The measure's next stop, Stumbo said, will be the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee where its financial implications will be vetted.

The proposal calls for allowing video gambling terminals at seven horse tracks. Stumbo said the move could generate up to $340 million a year for the state by taxing the gambling revenues. Tracks that install the video gambling terminals would have to pay license fees ranging from $25 million to $125 million.

The Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper, executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches, was critical of the manner in which the proposal was brought in, claiming that the bill was "suddenly and almost secretly" introduced on Thursday - shortly after Stumbo had said it would be placed on the backburner - and did not allow opponents to speak against it.

"This is not government of, by and for the people," Kemper said.

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