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Racetrack Exclusivity Could Be Key To Kentucky Gambling Expansion

Governor Steve Beshear has had a rocky relationship with the gaming issue over the years, but his plans have become clear over the past twelve months. Beshear feels an obligation to help the state's ailing race industry, and to do so, many experts believe that gambling expansion is the only savior.

On Thursday, Beshear met with Senator Damon Thayer, with the hopes of coming to an agreement on how to proceed with gambling expansion in the state. The two lawmakers emerged from the meeting feeling confident that they can work together in the new session that starts next week.

Beshear wants casino gambling exclusively at Kentucky racetracks. That may be a concession that many Republican lawmakers are not willing to make. The Conservatives would likely support expansion, but not limited to only the tracks. It is an issue that will be debated starting on Tuesday.

"Obviously, the governor has an obligation to racetracks, to the breeders," said Sen. Tom Buford. "If that's how it comes out, I feel certain a Republican will file a different amendment with just casino gaming...I don't know that one can pass that's exclusively for the racetracks."

Beshear, last year, attempted to seize the domain names of 141 online gaming sites. That move made many constituents believe that the governor was anti-gambling. Beshear dispelled that theory earlier this year when he started his push to have slots installed at state racetracks. The track owners believe that slots and other casino games are the only way to save the ailing industry.

Any changes to the current Kentucky gaming laws would have to be done through an amendment voted on by Kentucky residents. Recent polls have indicated that residents are in favor of adding slots to the tracks. Churchill Downs would become the biggest beneficiary of such a move, with the famed Kentucky Derby held at the track each Spring.

Kentucky is looking to follow the lead of other states such as West Virginia, Florida, and New York, all of which have added or expanded casino gambling at tracks within their borders. New York's Aqueduct track won approval over a decade ago for a new casino, but the casino did not open its doors until earlier this year.

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