Two state House Democrats have prefiled a bill that would expand gaming in Kentucky, in an effort to generate revenue to pay down billions in pension debt.
Reps. Dennis Keene, D-Wilder, and Rick Rand, D-Bedford, announced the prefiled legislation on Monday.
Bill Request 149 calls on expanded gambling to be overseen by an expanded Kentucky Lottery Board, according to a news release. The legislation would legalize gaming in the state via a constitutional amendment to be voted upon by Kentuckians. The bill would allow for “local-option casinos” in up to 10 facilities across the state.
“Casinos are already located along all of Kentucky’s borders and those states are reaping the benefits of additional tax revenues,” said Keene and Rand in a statement. “Kentucky’s lottery gambling is highly successful and by expanding existing gaming venues to allow for casino-type games, we will grow a new revenue source to help us catch up on the pension shortfall.”
Rand estimated the state could rake in as much as $500 million in new revenue over the biennium, once all the casinos are operational.
“Based upon actuarial assumptions, and looking at revenue generated from our neighboring states, this could be a windfall for Kentucky,” Rand said. “Initial license fees for casinos would generate one-time $325 million in fees followed by $236 million annually. That would be a great step in the right direction towards decreasing our pension shortfall.”
The bill request would establish initial licensing fees for full casinos at $50 million with an initial licensing period of 10 years and annual renewal thereafter at $6 million per year. The bill would also allow “limited casino gaming at horse racing tracks.”
Casinos will be limited to no more than four free-standing to be located in precincts that approve the conduct of expanded gaming and to horse racing tracks that already conduct pari-mutuel wagering, which shall not be allowed to conduct electronic games, but shall not be allowed full casino gaming, according to a news release.
The legislation also establishes a “gaming tax of 31 percent and limits that money to the benefit of the state retirement systems for the first 10 years, “according to the prefiled bill draft. The legislation would establish an admission tax of $3 per person per day.
If passed by the General Assembly and approved by voters, the bill would also establish the casino gaming revenue distribution trust fund; establish the regional tourism and infrastructure development fund and provide criteria for projects seeking money from the fund.
Gov. Bevin was recently asked about expanding gaming to pay down pension debt during a radio interview on WHAS 840; according to a Courier-Journal report Bevin told host Leland Conway that he didn’t believe the additional revenue generated from legalizing expanded gambling would offset “the societal costs.”
Multiple amendments have been filed to expand legalized gaming in recent years, but all have failed to pass the General Assembly.