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Can state maintain ‘racing capital’ title?



In the last decade, owners of horse racing tracks have spent millions of dollars lobbying members of the Kentucky General Assembly to allow expanded gambling in the tracks.

For the most part, their efforts have fallen on deaf ears. When they failed to convince legislators to allow voters to decide the issue by placing an expanded gambling amendment on the ballot, they attempted to convince legislators to simply pass a law to allow new forms of gambling. That strategy came after House Speaker Greg Stumbo claimed voters had approved expanded gambling when they voted for the lottery amendment in 1988 and another vote was not necessary. While a bill to allow new games of chance at racetracks was narrowly approved the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, it died in the Republican-controlled Senate without a vote.

Another effort to place the issue of expanded gambling on the ballot was rejected by legislators earlier this year.

Throughout the years, the racetracks have claimed they cannot attract the best horses because they are unable to compete with tracks in other states that allow casino-style games of chance because they lack the revenue to increase their purses.

So is the racing industry dying in Kentucky because of the lack of casino gambling? Well, not exactly, but the number and quality of races at Kentucky tracks are declining. Churchill Downs has reduced its number of racing dates, and Turfway Park has scratched its premier fall racing event, marking the latest setback for the struggling track in northern Kentucky.

The Kentucky Cup Day of Champions has been a launching pad in the past for horses prepping for the Breeders’ Cup, but Turfway has canceled the event for the second time in three years. Not even a sponsorship by WinStar Farm, a prominent horse farm in Kentucky’s bluegrass region, could save the Kentucky Cup this fall. …

Just as it predicted, Turfway is struggling to keep pace with purses offered by other tracks that benefit from an infusion of casino gambling money. As a result, owners are sending their top thoroughbreds to tracks in other states. That does not bode well for the state that boasts of being the racing capital of the world.

— The Independent, Ashland, Ky.



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