LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Kentucky Senate passed a bill Tuesday aimed at legalizing Kentucky’s 3,625 slot-like historical horse racing machines.
The measure, SB 120, split the body’s supermajority Republican caucus, with Republicans relying on the votes of Democrats to get the bill over the line. That's a rarity in the chamber where the GOP holds 30 of 38 seats.
Lawmakers engaged in an hour-long debate about whether the machines are predatory and the economic ramifications for the live horse racing industry if they were not to act and the state’s six gaming facilities were forced to close.
The slot-like gaming machines have been in Kentucky for 10 years, but their legality was called into doubt by the Kentucky Supreme Court in a surprise decision in September.
Kentucky Senate is now taking up SB 120, the bill to legalize the horse racing pictured here. #kyga21. First up, an amendment by @KyWhitney to remove language that would insulate horse tracks from liability for the billions $ in wagers already made over last 10 years. pic.twitter.com/rSgnFkg4Wu— Chris Otts (@christopherotts) February 9, 2021
“What this bill does, it simply clarifies the issue once and for all,” said Sen. John Schickel, a Republican from Union, who talked about the importance of Turfway Park in his area of northern Kentucky.
Other Republicans weren’t persuaded by predictions of the live horse racing industry’s imminent doom without the revenue from historical racing, or said the historical racing in itself doesn’t ensure live racing survives.
“Sure, we need every job we can get in Kentucky but at what price?” said Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield. “ ... I feel like I am almost being blackmailed.”
“Subsidized industries don’t last,” said Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg.
The bill, a big priority for the horse industry and business groups like the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, now heads to the House, where Republicans also hold a supermajority and its fate is uncertain.
Gov. Andy Beshear applauded the Senate’s move Tuesday, saying he would immediately sign the bill if it makes it to his desk.