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KY Gov Beshear Wants Casinos Not Tied to Tracks (Updated)

In order to gather the largest coalition possible, the governor is attempting to get the Constitutional amendment through by not making gambling restrictive to tracks.

Gambling involves chips, unless it involves cash.
Gambling involves chips, unless it involves cash.
Jeff Bottari

I understand the sentiment here. A specific protection in the Kentucky Constitution for Casino-style gaming to be the sole property of tracks is ridiculous in theory. So no issues, in theory.

But in practice who cares? How many major population centers are there in Kentucky? Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green, Cincinnati suburbs, Evansville/Henderson? Guess what coincides exactly with those cities: Churchill Downs, Keeneland/The Red Mile, Kentucky Downs, Turfway Park, Ellis Park. Where else are you going to put a casino anyway? Does Murray want one? Paducah? Hi Hat (look it up, it's a real place)?

So whether you really want to provide specific protections to gambling being the sole property of the tracks of Kentucky or not, doesn't it make sense to promote the heart and soul of Kentucky and dual hat the tracks?

I am on record as fully acknowledging that slots/VLTs/Racinos are not a panacea that will cure racing's ills. However, what do you lose by NOT protecting the ability of the tracks in Kentucky to operate VLTs? Nothing except helping the racing industry in Kentucky.

Read the whole report here, at the Courier-Journal.

[Note by TFTribe, 01/07/13 11:39 AM EST ] So Churchill Downs and its parent company cast their die this morning with this statement,

“Regardless of location, our primary concern is that Churchill Downs own and operate any casino in the Louisville market,” said [CDI Senior Vice President Brett] Hale. “If not, 138 years of racing heritage and Kentucky Derby tradition will be put at risk.”

Looks like they went straight for the big guns by putting the Derby's viability on the table. Now there is no way the Derby, as one of America's most popular sporting events (actually, for non-NFL, non-Olympics broadcasts it was the 13th most watched sporting event on TV last year), is in a direct fight for its survival. But the point CDI is trying to make is understood. To be honest, the only track in Kentucky that could be untouched by not controlling the casinos is Keeneland, since the sales are such a huge part of their business. And if you just replace the "Kentucky Derby" references with "high quality product" references, you can see his point completely.

[Note by TFTribe, 01/08/13 8:55 AM EST ] So the Louisville Courier-Journal misses the point that CDI was trying to make. CDI is opening the PR and bidding war by starting with the highest stakes possible. Throughout the process, the "negotiations" will be shaped by this opening salvo. By putting the Derby on the table, CDI was just setting the tone, not making the absolute statement that with non-track based gambling the Derby will go under.

But the author makes a great point in saying,

Given the track’s history, its political muscle and its impact on the community, it would enter any subjective process (that is, not determined only by the highest price) with enough of an edge that it might be willing to take its chances.

All things being equal, would the state, county, city, or whatever jurisdiction is given a casino license for bidding in Louisville, ignore the advantages that Churchill brings to the table? The only other viable option in Louisville would be a riverboat-type or hotel-type casino that would have to be built from the ground up. Churchill Downs is relatively easy to get to, already has everything built, has a boatload of parking, and brings a guarantee of experienced stewardship with the backing of CDI and the properties it already owns.

Those are a significant number of advantages built into the status quo as of right now.