Invoice for the preservation of historic horse racing wins final passage | Oklahoma Information
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – Kentucky’s horse industry won a high-stakes showdown Thursday night when lawmakers finally passed a bill to secure the legal status of historic racing machine betting.
The House voted 55-38 to submit the measure to Governor Andy Beshear, who previously endorsed the bill to preserve a lucrative source of income tapped by the state’s racetracks. The Democratic governor hailed the action by the House of Representatives in sending the bill to his desk, describing the move as a critical step in ensuring the state-signed whole-blood industry continues to be strong.
The slots-like ventures have increased over the past decade, and the tracks have reinvested some of the revenue to make Kentucky’s horse racing circuit more competitive than casino-backed tracks in other states.
But historic horse racing was jeopardized by a court ruling last year.
The bill is designed to address shortcomings that have resulted in the Kentucky Supreme Court ruling at least some forms of historic horse race betting that do not meet the same betting standards. The measure would include such operations in the definition of equivalent use.
The aftermath of the court ruling began recently when one of the state’s historic racing venues, jointly operated by Keeneland and Red Mile in Lexington, was temporarily closed.
Historic racing machines allow people to bet on randomly generated past horse races. The games usually show videos of compressed horse races. The state racing industry has poured millions of dollars into developing historic horse racing clubs, and Kentucky weathers put more than $ 2 billion on the machines in the past fiscal year.
During the nearly three-hour debate in the House of Representatives, Republican Matthew Koch said historic racing was “a shot in the arm for this industry.” Proponents of the law warned of the loss of this revenue, which would cripple the equestrian sector, cut jobs and hurt companies that serve the industry.
“Let me remind you that while Kentucky is the best place to raise a horse, it is not the only place you can raise a horse,” said Koch. “And we have to fight to keep this up.”
The debate got emotional at times as proponents spoke about the deep roots and economic importance of the equine industry in Kentucky. In the meantime, opponents rejected the bill on moral grounds.
Critics denounced the bill as a rescue operation for routes that pushed ahead with the opening of historic betting shops despite ongoing questions about the legality of the machines. They presented the problem as a deep-pocketed racing industry that generated profits from people who were lured onto the machines to play.
“It will continue to exacerbate heartbreak and tragedy and cause a great deal of suffering and pain to people as we pass this bill,” said Republican MP David Hale.
The Family Foundation, a conservative group that led a long litigation against historical horse racing, said “money and political power” prevailed in the legislation showdown. However, the group warned that the slots machines would eventually overshadow racing operations.
“We have been saying all along that this bill would not save the equine industry, it would replace it. Horses are fast, but mechanized gambling is faster and more profitable, “Foundation spokesman Martin Cothran said in a statement.
In the meantime, some legislators continued to demand a higher tax rate for historic racing establishments. They say the tax rate is too low for an industry that generates huge revenue from the ventures.
The governor said Thursday evening that the racetracks had made pledges to introduce a fairer and more equitable tax structure during the current legislature.
“This can happen if we stop fighting and working together,” Beshear said in a statement.
Leading companies in the horse industry from various sectors also dealt with the tax issue on Thursday evening. In a statement, they promised to “work constructively to revise and increase the tax structure for historic racing machines, including taking into account a fair and equitable tiered tax structure”.
Rep. Joni Jenkins, the senior House Democrat, said she expected the industry to continue efforts to adjust the “shameful tax rate” on historic race betting.
“I’ll take your word for it, the horse racing industry recognizing this needs to be looked into,” she said.
The legislation is Senate Bill 120.
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