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Gov. Steve Beshear has said state lawmakers will undertake problems with the horse racing industry when they convene next week in Frankfort.
If you read between the lines or have been following this discussion, that simply means he thinks it’s time Kentucky examines the idea of expanding gambling to support a key industry.
We don’t argue horse racing has problems and needs some focused support.
Churchill Downs has reduced its number of days of operation, and other tracks in Kentucky may even have to close. The horses aren’t racing here because the purses simply aren’t large enough to compete with tracks in other states.
But we have real reservations about what at least one proposed solution could mean for all of us: slot machines.
Industry officials and some lawmakers are suggesting Kentucky adopt the plan used in several other states and add slot machines to create revenue to underwrite purses at local race tracks, thus attracting more horses and more gamblers, which should mean more tax revenue on the other end.
But that may not be a good bet.
Yes, it is somewhat hypocritical to endorse one form of gambling while denouncing another. Why would horse racing or lotteries be acceptable and slots and casinos not?
Because to expand gaming would change a culture carved carefully around The Sport of Kings. Horse racing has elegance and an athleticism that is enjoyable even if you’ve never held a $2 ticket.
Slot machines attract people who simply slide their last nickels into a hole in search of three aligned icons that will return some of those nickels and hopefully many more.
Kentucky is the cradle of horse racing’s birth. Horses are part of our fabric, and they create a sweet mystique.
There’s no mystery about casino-type gambling. It’s obviously just plain gambling.
If we put slot machines at tracks, hotels or airports, haven’t we diminished horse racing and become just another gambling center? Is that what we want?
Just because slots are good for Indian reservations don’t mean they are good for Kentucky.
We think lawmakers should aspire to more for our state. Slot machines feel like a sucker bet for all of us.