After nearly two hours of debate, the Kentucky state Senate failed to pass a bill Thursday that called for a November referendum on the issue of expanded gambling. The bill received 16 “aye” votes, well short of the 23 needed to pass a constitutional amendment in the Senate. There were 21 “nay” votes.
The vote was taken one day after a Senate committee approved the bill in a 7-4 vote. Senate President David Williams fast-tracked the measure so that the full Senate would vote on it Thursday. One senator who was expected to vote yes was not present Thursday because of a business trip. Several Senators who had indicated they would support the bill changed their votes when it became apparent the measure would not pass.
Bill sponsor Damon Thayer and others urged their fellow Senators to give the people of Kentucky the opportunity to have their say on casino gambling.
“I'm not a strong advocate of casinos,” Thayer said during the debate. “I don't go to casinos, and I don't really like them. I'm a horse racing guy… I wish as the sponsor of this bill to put this issue to rest once and for all. I trust the people of the Commonwealth.”
Opponents of the measure mostly cited concerns over gambling addiction and the moral hazards of increased gaming.
“I don't care what the other states are doing,” said Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington. “Why would we jump off this cliff into darkness and sin and addiction? This is terrible public policy.”
Following the vote, Patrick Neely, executive director of the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP) said: “Kentucky's horse industry has undoubtedly reached a critical juncture. We therefore challenge those elected officials who professed support for Kentucky's signature horse industry, but voted against the bill, to help us find solutions to our industry's significant competitive disadvantage.”
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