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Cash-strapped Kentucky takes another look at legalizing casinos

Kentucky lawmakers are studying proposals to amend their constitution in a bid to accommodate four casinos across the Bluegrass State.

WCPO TV 9 reported that State Reps. Dennis Keene and Rick Rand pre-filed BR-197, which seeks to legalize casinos and at the same time expand pari-mutuel gambling, in the first week of December.

Kentucky, currently one of 10 U.S. states that does not have a casino offering, is becoming more receptive to the measure compared to the previous years, according to Keene.

Aside from welcoming casinos to the state, Keene’s bill also opened the possibility of allowing sports betting.

The cash-strapped state needs new revenue streams to straighten its budget and salvage the state pension plan. Kentucky casinos could help recapture money that its residents spend in neighboring gambling venues, according to the report.

In the historic coal town of Jenkins, Kentucky, residents are already throwing their support for the opening of casinos in the wake of high unemployment rate, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.

Meanwhile, lobby group Jobs 4 Kentucky is gathering signatures of Jenkins residents supporting the initiative.

“Responsible gaming is the pride of the modern gaming entertainment industry,” the pro-casino group said in a statement posted on its website. “The Citizens of Kentucky can count on an expanded gaming community to operate responsibly and with care for our people.”

Despite the growing support, several lawmakers believe that BR-197 faces a steep uphill climb in the Congress.

One of the factors why the casino measure has not moved forward in Kentucky is the disagreements over the casinos’ location. Social conservatives are exerting pressure on Congress not to allow gambling expansion in the state, while the Kentucky’s influential horse industry wants casinos confined to the tracks.

Other casino bills have been filed in recent years, but Keene said gambling expansion has always failed in the legislature because “there’s not been the political courage to pass it.”

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