Conway: constitutional amendment not needed - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Conway: constitutional amendment not needed

Attorney General Jack Conway says lawmakers have the authority to allow casino-style gambling at horse tracks without amending the state constitution.

Conway released an advisory opinion on Monday saying that a constitutional amendment isn't necessary if the state legislature passes a law putting the Kentucky Lottery Corp. in charge of the proposed video gambling terminals.

"My staff and I simply followed the law and allowed it to lead us to the proper legal conclusion on this issue," Conway said.  State Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, had asked the attorney general's opinion whether a constitutional amendment would be necessary to expanding gambling opportunities at horse tracks.

State leaders have debated for years whether Kentucky, a state with a long tradition of betting on horse races, can offer casino-style gambling at the tracks.

Gov. Steve Beshear has called lawmakers into special session beginning Monday to consider allowing Kentucky horse racing tracks to offer video slot machines.

Beshear and gambling advocates contend that the state's horse industry is in crisis. They say it needs extra money from other forms of gambling to survive.

Twelve other horse racing states -- including Kentucky neighbors West Virginia and Indiana -- allow bettors to wager on video gambling machines, slot machines or other casino-style games at the track, according to the American Gaming Association's 2009 State of the States report.

Beshear released a proposal last week calling for Kentucky's horse tracks to buy 10-year licenses to operate video lottery terminals. Revenue from the slots would be divvied among purses and breeders' incentives, state government and the tracks, with the track keeping the bulk of the money.

But gambling opponents, motivated largely by moral and religious objections, claim gambling's negatives won't infuse enough cash to sustain the horse industry.

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