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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – Senate Democrats killed legislation Thursday that would have allowed voters a say in any proposal that would expand gambling in Kentucky.
The measure needed 23 votes on the Senate floor to pass. It got only 21, all from Republicans.
Sixteen Senate Democrats voted along party lines Thursday to defeat the measure sponsored by Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville.
The measure called for a constitutional amendment that would have required all gambling issues to be placed on the ballot for Kentucky voters to accept or reject.
“Anyone who did not vote for that amendment and claims they are against the expansion of gambling in Kentucky will have a hard time explaining that vote,” Williams told reporters after the measure’s defeat.
The vote came during an election year in which 19 of 38 Senate seats could be up for grabs.
Pro-gambling state Sen. David Boswell, D-Owensboro, said Williams knew the bill stood no chance of passage, but pushed it out for a floor vote anyway so GOP challengers could make an issue of it.
“I think intelligent voters can see through what Sen. Williams is trying to do,” Boswell said.
Two alternative measures are pending in the House and Senate that would legalize video slot machines at the state’s horse tracks without a voter referendum. Under those proposals, the state would sell gambling licenses and then tax the revenues from slots to generate $780 million over the next two years.
The House version would use the revenue on specific initiatives, including a massive school construction program paid for by leveraging about $1 billion in bonds to create work for thousands of jobless Kentuckians. Under the Senate version, the revenues would go into the general fund to help stave off budget cuts and potential employee layoffs.
Although Kentucky has a long tradition of betting on horse races, political leaders have been reluctant to legalize other forms of gambling.