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County’s revenue at stake if Kentucky adds more gambling

County’s revenue at stake if Kentucky adds more gambling County’s revenue at stake if Kentucky adds more gambling

Harrison County may be in danger of losing riverboat revenue with the recent election of Steve Beshear as governor of Kentucky. Beshear was inaugurated yesterday (Tuesday), which could be bad news for the county’s finances. Last year, about 32 percent of the county’s spending came from riverboat revenue.
Despite Beshear taking office and his push to bring additional legalized gambling to the Bluegrass State, some Harrison County officials aren’t as worried as others about its effect here.
‘We don’t know what they might do,’ said Commissioner James Goldman. ‘Our riverboat will still be there, still supporting.’
Goldman said as long as the riverboat revenue stays above the cap, Harrison County will not be affected.
‘I think we’ll be competitive with anyone,’ said Commissioner Terry Miller. ‘I’m more worried about the state taking the money more than Kentucky (riverboats)’ taking it.
Caesars Indiana has much to offer, some elected officials said, with the hotel accommodations and its championship golf course, Chariot Run.
The Harrison County Council discussed the matter at its meeting last month. Carl (Buck) Mathes, chair of the council, asked the council’s legal counsel, Shawn Donahue, how long it would be before a riverboat or casino is in action across the river. Donahue said it could be on the ballot as early as next November, and, if approved, could be in operation in late 2009 or 2010. Beshear’s goal is to construct nine to 14 casinos or riverboats throughout Kentucky, including a possible casino at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
‘That will be the price that pays the bill,’ said Donahue, referring to the Churchill Downs site.
A 2005 study conducted for the Indiana Gaming Commission found that about 64 percent of the customers who frequent the five Indiana casinos on the Ohio River come from other states. Officials said Harrison County would be hit hard if the riverboat visitors are drawn away from Caesars, located in Bridgeport, which is in the shadows of Louisville. Riverboat revenue accounted for 32 percent of the total money spent for county government in 2006.
In Kentucky, the riverboat motion would have to pass through the legislative body before being voted on in a general election. It must go through the General Assembly to approve a proposed constitutional amendment by a three-fifths majority in both chambers. Donahue said the riverboat should be able to get through the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, but the Senate may be a different story. It takes 23 votes to pass in the Senate, and, at last count, 13 Senators are in favor, according to Donahue, who added that those from the southern part of the state are against it.
‘You could look at a wet/dry map,’ said Donahue, with those in the ‘wet’ areas supporting the riverboat while those in the ‘dry’ are not.
If legislators approve the amendment and it is on the ballot next November, Beshear would be guaranteed a large voter turnout with 2008 being a presidential election year.