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Last-minute legislation seeks a change in Kentucky gambling oversight

Left to Right-Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer-House Speaker David Osborne-Paris Representative Matthew Koch
Stu Johnson
Left to Right-Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer-House Speaker David Osborne-Paris Representative Matthew Koch

Kentucky lawmakers are being asked to consider a significant change in gambling regulation at the state level. It involves the formation of a brand-new entity with broader responsibility. The legislation got Senate approval Tuesday afternoon.

The 282-page bill calls for the establishment of the Horse Racing and Gaming Corporation. It would replace the current Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Its regulatory authority would cover horse racing, sports wagering, historic horse racing, and charitable gaming. House Speaker David Osborne said the nature of gambling in Kentucky has changed.

“Whether you are for that or against that I think that everyone acknowledges the importance of regulating it appropriately and free of political influence and free from the appearance of impropriety,” said Osborne.

A committee member and a representative of a non-profit expressed concern the change could adversely impact charitable gaming. Lexington Senator Reggie Thomas said more time is needed to digest the lengthy bill.

Mike Mulrooney with the charitable group ‘Shirley’s Way’, a cancer non-profit, testified with concerns.

“Historical horse racing sees us as a competitor and having us work under the historical horse racing I think would probably push us out and shut us down because if they’re not happy with our machines they could control it at that point if they put us all under one umbrella,” said Mulrooney.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said he didn’t think the change would negatively affect charitable gaming revenues, but it would weed out the bad actors.

The legislation calls for retaining the current members of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for two years. The governor would still appoint members after that point, but the new appointees would then go before the State Senate for confirmation. The movement of charitable gaming authority would not occur until 2025. Osborne testified in committee the measure would call for selection of members from various interests including trainers, breeders, veterinarians, the gaming community, law enforcement, and charitable groups. Osborne said if there was any expansion in legal gambling, the new corporation would regulate that as well.

Thayer said after the meeting, that there was not one particular concern or incident that prompted this legislation. He said it would have no effect on the Kentucky Lottery. The legislation was spelled out before a joint meeting of House and Senate committees.

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Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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