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Kentucky lawmakers consider putting casinos on ballot

FLORENCE, Ky. -- If the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce gets its way, casino gaming will be legal in Kentucky. 

Brent Cooper, the president of the chamber, said they're partnering with the Louisville Chamber of Commerce on a recent push to make it happen. They aim to get the issue on the November ballot.

"I don't understand why we wouldn't pursue this from the state," he said. "Especially the face that we have horse racing and a billion dollars comes out of the lottery. We already have gaming. It's prevalent. Why not take advantage of it?"

States near Kentucky including Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee and Illinois have already adopted gaming. Cooper said 85 percent of Kentuckians live within two hours of a casino. He likened the situation to packing up millions of dollars in a suitcase and shipping it out of state.

"If we can keep those dollars here, keep them from going across the river, keep them from going to Indiana or Ohio, that's in our interest," he said. "We want to pursue that."

Cooper said it makes sense to legalize casino gaming in Kentucky. But the idea has faced opposition in the past, especially from rural communities. Some view casinos as a potential threat to their way of life. The casino proponents are willing to work around that with how legislation is written, according to Cooper. 

As it stands, the state is missing out on between $250-$350 million, Cooper said. 

"We're bringing it back up now because of the pension situation in Frankfort. It's dire," Cooper said. "They have to come up with a way to come up with revenue. This is an alternative to raising taxes. They could raise hundreds of millions of dollars with this kind of option for our community."

Cooper said there's been support from both sides of the aisle in Frankfort. 

This isn't the first time a casino proposal has been presented In 2008, a similar proposal crumbled in the Kentucky House of Representatives, but Cooper said this time could be different. The stakes are higher now with looming costs like the state pension.

"If we approve this, it will create a revenue stream that will help us to really jumpstart this state in so many ways," Cooper said.

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