Covering Frankfort

Feb 15, 2013 3:11 PM

Stumbo: Horse Tracks Could Hold Pension Solution

FRANKFORT (AP) - House Speaker Greg Stumbo says horse racing tracks could generate up to $30 million a year in tax revenue for the state's financially troubled pension system by installing slot-like machines and then taxing the proceeds.

In Kentucky, actual slot machines are banned, but two horse tracks in the state have installed slot-like machines, called instant racing machines, that allow people to wager on the outcomes of past horse races.

Stumbo said he believes instant racing could generate wagers totaling $1 billion a year if expanded to additional tracks. Taxing those wages could be a boon for the pension system.

Stumbo has also proposed raising the state's cigarette tax from 60 cents to $1 a pack in a move he said could generate $100 million a year for the pension system.

He declined to elaborate on other proposals.

"We're trying to get everything together in a neat package that's been vetted and that we know is accurate before we can give it to the caucus," he said.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Machester, told reporters it's as if Stumbo is simply tossing ideas against a wall and seeing which ones might stick.

Senate Floor Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said the Legislature should wait on the Instant Racing proposal until the Kentucky Supreme Court rules on its legality. The state's highest court announced in January that it will review lower court rulings regarding Instant Racing, which critics contend is no different than illegal slot machines.

A spokesman for The Family Foundation, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, said Friday that Instant Racing proponents are saying one thing to the courts and something completely different to the General Assembly.

"For over two years, they've been telling the courts that Instant Racing is already legal and now they're telling the General Assembly that they need a law to make it legal," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for the group.

"If Instant Racing is legal, a bill legalizing it wouldn't be necessary would it?" Cothran asked.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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