Would allow “electronic games of skill” similar to what are used at tracks in Arkansas

Kentucky Rep. Harry Moberly this week filed a bill to allow “electronic games of skill” at the state’s racetracks.

House Bill 601 would permit racetracks to operate games such as video poker, blackjack or other games of skill that Moberly said might be more acceptable than the slots at racetracks proposed by Gov. Steve Beshear.

Moberly, a former chairman of the House budget committee, said the games require a higher level of skill than slot machines and have a higher rate of return on winnings. “Hopefully people are willing to look at this objectively,” he said, adding that he believes the horse industry is in trouble and needs help.

Under HB 601, the Kentucky Lottery Commission would oversee the operation of such electronic games, and voters in each county where the games would operate would have to approve them in a special election.

Of the proceeds, 13.5 percent would go to the track, to be used for racing purses. Another 1.5 percent of the revenue would go to purse supplements, breeders' awards, owners' awards and stallion awards, according to the bill. The remainder, according to Moberly, would go to the state for a jobs program.

The bill, however, faces a rocky road, observers say. “We continue to believe that Kentucky remains a ‘wait ‘til next year’ event,” stated Union Gaming Group analysts in a note to investors. Union Gaming also noted that although a majority of residents, 59 percent, favor expanded gaming in Kentucky, “an even greater majority [85 percent] want to see it enacted via a voter referendum rather than through the legislature.”