Monday, June 22, 2009

Senate panel says 'no way' to Ky. gaming

A Kentucky Senate committee today overwhelmingly turned down a bill that would legalize video lottery terminals at racetracks to augment purses

After more than two hours of discussion, the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee voted 10-5 against even forwarding the bill to the full Senate for consideration. The Blood-Horse did not initially report which senator abstained from the vote, or whose votes were cast for or against the bill.

Kentucky legislators are pushing their luck the longer they fail to produce new revenues that support the state's thoroughbred breeding and racing industries. States all around Kentucky, including Indiana, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, have in recent years approved some sort alternative gaming revenues to augment purses, owner and breeder awards. Not all have caught up to Kentucky in the process, but each chips away at the Bluegrass State's status as No. 1.

The rebuff wasn't unexpected by racing industry officials.

But Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland has called for balancing his state's budget by installing VLTs at racetracks. Bob Elliston, president of Turfway Park in nearby northern Kentucky has warned that his racetrack would close by the end of next year if River Downs across the border in Ohio were to add alternative gaming.

Kentucky Republican Senate President David Williams has advanced an idea to tax lottery tickets, borrow money from a state pension fund and tax out-of-state wagering rather than adding video lottery at the tracks. It's a plan that's more convoluted and less manageable than VLTs.

I've mentioned this before, but it never ceases to amaze me when politicians whose states already have parimutuel wagering and lotteries get their boxers in a bunch about adding a video lottery terminal or slot machine at a racetrack. Particularly a politician who has been known to entertain himself with gambling out of state.

Advocates of VLTs want an up-or-down vote in the full Senate, and the state of Kentucky deserves it. Trapping legislation in committee is a cowardly act, especially if it's orchestrated by someone who thinks gambling is good, clean fun -- in somebody else's jurisdiction.


  1. The Kentucky horse owners and breeders (at least those who still left) should remember the politicians who have been opposed to VLTs at the tracks and vote accordingly in the next elections.

  2. Looks like we ended up on Paulick Report again. Scores of new visitors.

    Thanks for the comment. We had one other wishing equine ills (couldn't tell how humorous the intent) on David Williams, but I decided to cast my all-powerful "nay" on posting that one via my blog moderation powers.

  3. "it never ceases to amaze me when politicians whose states already have parimutuel wagering and lotteries get their boxers in a bunch about adding a video lottery terminal or slot machine at a racetrack" -

    It might not be the reason why those Kentucky politicians voted NO on slots, but there is indeed a huge difference.

    To legalize handicapping on a sport like racing which has other functions than as a pure gambling outlet too, or running a small-bet lottery (where the proceeds go to fund good causes) is indeed not the same as legalizing a highly-addictive form of gambling like slots, which (let's be honest) is based on roping the not-too-bright into a game they will definitely lose.

  4. We need VLT's bad here in KY. Other states Horse Racing tracks across the country are getting them. I think it's silly. People say that Slots will cause more issues. I think the issues already exist. If people want to gamble in KY they already have BINGO, LOTTERY, and across the river in INDIANI we can go to River Boat Casino�s.So the temptation is already there for Kentucky Residents that want to gamble. Why not keep the money in Kentucky. (I think that�s to easy). Senator DAVID WILLIAMS he goes across the river to play blackjack at casinos. Why would he VOTE no. I think that he doesn�t want to be judged. Well he has been judged. Ellis Park was my place while growing up, Along with Lary Jones. Ellis park has so many childhood memories for me. Its Home, Its Family. My parents don�t know yet what there going to do with there horses. But when the pea patch closes at the end of the summer meet. I know I will shed a tear. It's been a very sad week here in KY. Benjamin Henderson KY

  5. I agree slots are a losing proposition for the player.

    Of course, the point of any gambling, even if skill is involved (i.e., handicapping) is that more people lose than win, otherwise there wouldn't be money in winning.

    And for a state to run a lottery -- often described as "a tax on people who are bad at math" -- and then act too high-and-mighty to allow a slot machine is hypocritical.

  6. The difference is that lottery players (a few "system"-players aside) spend a buck or three every week, while becoming a slots regular IMO can't be explained by anything other than addiction, unless you're really, really into pulling handles and creepy noises.

    Of course there is an element of hypocrisy, but let's not forget: there's some on our side too. Horsemen and racing fans want slots only to fund racing, while it would be perfectly within the states rights to legalize them independently of racing.

    Guess Kentucky horsemen and the racing media wouldn't be as unanimously in their support then.

  7. You must not have been in line at the convenience store behind the lottery players I've stood behind.

    At stores throughout my town, I've watched people walk in with $20 or $50 and buy a half-dozen or a dozen tickets (in N.C. now some of the scratch-off tickets COST $10 EACH) and scratch them off, and if they win anything, roll that back into more scratch-offs until they finally leave with whatever winnings are left, or walk out busted.

    I've watched people play the same numbers in the Powerball on five or six or 10 tickets. I suppose what they're trying to do is make sure that if there are multiple winners on "their" numbers, they get more than one slice of the pie.

    Statistically, lottery players are typically lower end of the economic spectrum. Some, if not many of them are spending money on lottery tickets that should be going to rent, or the kids' school lunches (which they're perhaps getting free from the government) or gas to get to work, but they're hoping to escape poverty.

    Certainly not all lottery players fit this mold, but you also don't see Donald Trump or Jess Jackson walking into a convenience store to buy a lottery ticket. It's people with big dreams who are, as stated, very bad at math (or ignore the reality) who buy these tickets, and buy A LOT of them.

    States across the U.S. are more than happy to take advantage of those citizens by offering them the pipe dream of wealth (realized by a precious few winners just to keep the people playing) in order to siphon money out of wallets to run state government.

    The states have zero moral high ground when operating a lottery while turning down other modes of gaming. They just want the lottery to remain the tallest hog at the gambling-dollar trough.

  8. Ouch!

    I based my comments on the little I know about lottery players in my part of Germany (I know very few personally). I've never seen anyone blowing his weekly income on those tickets and, more importantly, have never witnessed anyone stupid enough to re-"invest" a winning ticket. Then again, we luckily don't have many people who reach US levels of poverty or lack of basic education 'round here (no offense, just fact).

    If your impressions are representative, I admit I really have no point at all re:lottery. Especially if the states exploit those peoples' problems by offering $10 tix.

  9. Yep, I was shocked beyond belief to see $10 tickets.

    Here in North Carolina, they have a display case next to the cash register in most convenience stores and gas stations that sell tickets of various shapes, colors and sizes. There are all sorts of games -- including one based on the Monopoly board game, others with special prizes including a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, etc. -- to attract different types of players.

    The most basic tickets with the smallest prizes are indeed just $1. But my jaw dropped when I saw somewhat oversized tickets with larger prizes available and more fields to scratch, with "$10" in the price corner.

    If an individual were doing such a thing -- even if players won twice as much money, twice as often, i.e., were treated better -- it could get him stuck in jail. But the states make it legal for them (and only them in most places) to run a numbers game that would be criminal if managed privately.

    Among elements of North Carolina law: "Except in connection with a lawful raffle as provided in Part 2 of this Article, if any person shall sell, barter or cause to be sold or bartered, any ticket, token, certificate or order for any number or shares in any lottery, commonly known as the numbers or butter and egg lottery, or lotteries of similar character, to be drawn or paid within or without the State, such person shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. Any person who shall have in his possession any tickets, tokens, certificates or orders used in the operation of any such lottery shall be guilty under this section, and the possession of such tickets shall be prima facie evidence of the violation of this section."

    Actually, taken at face value, possession of lottery tickets from another state was illegal in North Carolina ... probably by the letter of the law still is, unless that was written-out in the establishment of the state's own lottery. People have been charged with being in possession of out-of-state lottery tickets, though usually as a means of holding them while other charges are pending, or to load them up with as many charges as possible to pressure them into a plea bargain.

    But at the top of the Web page of N.C. anti-gambling law is a link to the legislation the state wrote exempting its lottery from all the laws that apply to everybody else.

  10. It really is an entirely different game. In our corner of the world, there's the classic twice-weekly "pick-six-numbers" system and two or three minor systems which follow the same process.

    Apart from this, there is a monthly semi-stae-run lottery where the winning ticket gets a house (proceeds go to a charity for disabled children). To my knowledge this one has by far the most customers (7 of 82 million).

    I'm not aware of any other state-run systems that offer prizes other than money, but didn't really research it either.

    The only other thing I'm aware of are local/regional raffles intended to encourage people to donate for some good cause (the reconstruction of the Dresden Frauenkirche, f.e., was partially funded by such a raffle), but those are transparently donation systems. Even the best prizes are small amounts of money (50€ for a 1€ ticket) or collectors' items, and not suited to attract any actual gambling. Something like "every 100th person gets a good regional wine, a book about the subject at hand or an artful beer mug with an image of the subject".

    Anyway, interesting stuff. Thanks!

  11. Thanks, it's very interesting to read how things work in Germany, as well ... a country I'd really like to visit someday. Despite my C- college German skills.


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