A couple days after unveiling the language for Kentucky's 2012 gaming amendment, the expected vacillating by politicians in Frankfort has begun. Already, several legislators expressed concerns about the exclusivity of casinos at racetracks even with the inclusion of two freestanding casino licenses already in the language.
For all of you Chicken Littles, there is nothing new here.
Nearly every bill of this magnitude goes through an alteration process after the original language is announced. And while some legislators seem to be merely dipping their toe in the casino water, they are likely just using their vote as leverage to deliver carve outs for their districts and other favors. This is politics after all.
Side Note: Maybe someone should show Sen. Alice Forgy-Kerr a map of her district. While I don't understand why someone wouldn't allow the people to voice their opinion on this issue, it's incomprehensible that a senator whose district includes the magnificent Keeneland Race Course would tell the Courier-Journal that this amendment will pass “over my dead body”. It's not only a decision that lacks intelligence; it's antithetical to what a true representative should be for his or her constituents.
Back to the issue at hand, there is actually more good news than bad here. The conversation in the capitol is no longer about IF we should let the people decide on expanded gaming in Kentucky, but instead HOW it should be implemented. That's huge progress from where we were just a few years ago. It should be acknowledged that social changes of this magnitude are the most difficult to orchestrate.
The conversation in Frankfort is also not about whether the equine industry in Kentucky should be a part of the revenue split. It is understood by most that any expansion of gaming will come with purse supplements and increased breeders awards. This is another milestone in the 20-year battle over expanded gaming in the Bluegrass State.
Instead, it appears the crux of the argument centers around the geography of the casino licenses. Will the final bill come out in its current form of five racetracks and two freestanding casinos? It's hard to say right now but it's by no means a slam-dunk. Will the 60-mile cushion between a freestanding casino and a racetrack stand up to scrutiny? This is the most crucial concern and any compromise here must be met with additional increases in industry aid.
The Kentucky Thoroughbred industry is engaged in a fight with capable foes that either do not understand the financial realities of the Thoroughbred industry or would like nothing more than for the Thoroughbred industry to shrink up and die. Organizations like the Family Foundation only exist because issues like expanded gaming increase donations and pay salaries. Do you think Family Foundation co-founder Martin Cothran would have been holding court outside the press conference on Tuesday if it didn't afford him a comfortable living? I just hope the Family Foundation has 100,000 jobs waiting for Kentuckians if they get their way.
If you care about this issue, do not get complacent and mistakenly believe this is a done deal. All hands will be needed on deck. But also know the sky is not falling and remember the significant accomplishments made up to this point.
Nothing worth doing is easy.
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