The Kentucky House of Representatives gave the green light to a bill to make historical horse racing machines legal following almost three hours of debate.
Senate Bill 120 is now heading to Governor Andy Beshear, who has indicated that he will put his signature under the bill to transform it into law.
The piece of legislation changes the definition of so-called pari-mutuel betting in the state of Kentucky in order for the historical horse racing terminals to be legalized. The bill was passed by the House by 55 to 38 votes after a number of floor amendments were defeated and the bill faced strong opposition by some Republican members.
The legislation was unveiled by supporters of the horse racing industry after the 2020 ruling of the Kentucky Supreme Court that such machines cannot be constituted as legal pari-mutuel racing, which put under question the massive revenue generated by the machines over the past decade and which argued the closure of historical horse racing machine facilities.
Some opponents of the Senate Bill 120 said that the proposed piece of legislation is unconstitutional and the historical horse racing terminals could be made legal only through a constitutional amendment. According to others, the bill should have raised the machines’ tax rate to one that is comparable to slot machines in Kentucky’s neighboring states.
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Representative Adam Koenig explained that the bill had to pass if the state wanted to keep its position as a “horse capital” and local authorities wanted to avoid serious job losses. As a result, many Republicans backed the piece of legislation in Kentucky House on Thursday evening, denouncing the state’s gambling expansion that was described as immoral.
As a matter of fact, the Republican House members, who were present in the proposed bill’s final vote, were divided in their opinions, as only a slight majority (38) of the 75 members voted in favor of the bill. With such a split of the Republican caucus, the Senate Bill 120 also needed the support of the Democrats in order to pass the House vote, with 17 members of the Democratic Party voting for the bill and only 5 voting against it.
At the time when the proposed piece of legislation made its way through the Kentucky Senate on Tuesday, it was backed by 15 Republicans and all 7 Democrats who were present at the time of the vote for it.
Governor Beshear issued a statement saying that the passage of the proposed piece of legislation is a matter of paramount importance to make sure that Kentucky’s “signature thoroughbred industry” remains strong. The Governor’s statement also revealed that each of the major tracks across the state was committed to the enactment of a more fair tax structure during the ongoing legislative session.