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Beshear says gambling proposal coming soon


Gov. Steve Beshear said his gambling proposal should be ready for state lawmakers’ consideration by early next month.

Beshear, speaking at a news conference Tuesday, also stood by his previous estimate that state government could reap up to $500 million per year from casino gambling. Some lawmakers grumbled that an administrationbacked proposal had not been offered yet, but Beshear said the plan is being worked out and expected by early next month.

“We’re hopefully going to have the legislation prepared in early February, which will give the General Assembly plenty of time to consider it, hold hearings on it, ask any questions that they would like,” Beshear said.

In his campaign to unseat former Gov. Ernie Fletcher, Beshear claimed Kentucky should legalize casino gambling as a way to retain millions of dollars that were otherwise being wagered in bordering states. Kentucky already allows gambling at horse tracks and bingo halls and through a state lottery.

Beshear supports a constitutional amendment legalizing casino gambling at Kentucky’s horse tracks and possibly some other locations. The General Assembly would have to approve amending the state’s constitution, and that decision would require ratification by voters.

Beshear has said the revenue collected from casino gambling could pay for other government expenses such as education and health care.

Kentucky is facing a budget shortfall over the next two fiscal years of about $880 million. Beshear has already ordered 3 percent budget cuts for various state agencies and public universities to cope with a $434 million budget shortfall in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Lawmakers are expecting to hear Beshear’s budget proposal for the next two fiscal years at a joint session of the House and Senate on Jan. 29. Nevertheless, some have complained that Beshear’s gambling proposal was not ready.

Rep. Tim Firkins, D-Louisville, voiced frustration Tuesday that lawmakers haven’t been better informed on the issue.

“I’m trying to figure out, as all of this goes on behind closed doors, who’s going to be helped and who’s going to be hurt by expanded gambling in this state,” Firkins said. “And I’d like to know who’s driving the truck on this thing, who’s involved in the effort to put this bill together.”

Firkins said lawmakers have been told the casino legislation is being touted as “an economic bailout” for the state, and he said he wants to know when the major players are going to be talking publicly about the issue.

“A bill is not going to just drop on this legislature mysteriously from out of the sky,” he said. “There is going to be a lot of wheeling and dealing before that bill gets to us. We need to know what’s involved in that wheeling and dealing, and the sooner the better.”

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