Thursday, December 4, 2003

Around Northern Kentucky

Legislature will see two plans for track gambling

Pat Crowley

With a gambling bill once again on its deathbed in Columbus, the effort to bring casino-style games to Kentucky is beginning to intensify.

Two major bills with very different proposals are headed for a collision course when the legislature convenes in January. Both pieces of legislation would require statewide approval by voters.

The thoroughbred industry is putting the finishing touches on a bill permitting up to eight casinos at horse tracks, which are known as "racinos."

But there will also be a bill sponsored by top Democrats that would split gambling among four racinos - including one at Turfway Park in Florence - and four land-based casinos at locations that have not yet been selected. Rest assured, Northern Kentucky will be in line for a casino.

The bill will also include a "local option" for communities where the casinos are proposed, meaning voters there would have the right to reject or approve the gambling establishments.

Casino backers are anxious to see if the new administration of Republican governor-elect Ernie Fletcher embraces or shuns gambling. That could determine if the bills fail or pass.

NICK ON THE TRAIL: Bracken County Democrat Nick Clooney, who last week announced his candidacy for Congress, spent Tuesday meeting with Northern Kentucky Democratic leaders and contributors.

He hit the trail Wednesday, visiting rural counties of the Fourth Congressional District.

Republicans are also gearing up for May's contested GOP primary.

Geoff Davis of Boone County is holding a downtown Cincinnati fund-raiser next week that will feature appearances by three Cincinnati-area Republican Congressman - Rob Portman, Steve Chabot and John Boehner.

And Kevin Murphy of Erlanger has launched a campaign Web site,

DOWN ON THE FARMERS MARKET: Backers of a proposed $10 million farmers market in Covington - a project that could be Northern Kentucky's version of Findlay Market - hope to hear about their request for state money later this month.

The decision has been repeatedly delayed as state agricultural officials study the proposal. The latest study is looking at the need for farmers markets across the state. It is set to be unveiled Dec. 19 in Frankfort.

Backers say they are optimistic about receiving funding. But some concern has emerged from Covington City Hall that maybe the project needs to be scaled back.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "I don't know how or why we got invited, but we're going." - Kenton County GOP Chairman Greg Shumate on the invitation he and his wife, Katie, received to attend tonight's White House staff Christmas party.


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