LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Churchill Downs damaged its efforts to legalize casino-style gambling in Kentucky by contributing to a political action committee working to elect conservatives to the state's legislature, the Kentucky House's top leader said.
The Louisville racing company won't confirm the purpose of its contribution to the Next Generation Leadership Fund Inc., but didn't dispute that the money would be used to try to oust Democrats from the House, The Courier-Journal (http://cjky.it/1wEXVsC) reported.
Republicans are making a strong push in this year's election to take control of the Kentucky House for the first time in 90 years.
"This is going to make it extremely difficult, if not virtually impossible, for us to move forward with this issue," said House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat who has long been a supporter of expanded gambling.
Stumbo said it doesn't make sense for Churchill to target Democrats who have been most supportive of its efforts to build a casino in Louisville.
"The only bill that's been passed in the General Assembly concerning expanded gambling is the bill that I passed in ... 2009," Stumbo said. "We did that with very little Republican support as I recall."
Only eight Republicans were among the 52 votes in favor of the measure, which would have allowed for video lottery terminals similar to slot machines at race tracks.
"There probably aren't more than two or three Republican votes in the House to expand gaming in Kentucky and one only has to look at the Senate's actions to show that they're not even willing to vote for a constitutional amendment," Stumbo said.
Elizabeth Beacham, a Washington, D.C., lawyer representing the Next Generation Leadership Fund, sent an email from the political organization saying that it plans to try and influence legislative races in November.
"The Next Generation Leadership Fund is focused on promoting conservative candidates who are committed to changing Frankfort and helping the commonwealth pursue bold, new ideas so Kentucky can realize a future of opportunity and prosperity," the statement said. "The organization is raising resources and will be engaged in state legislative races this fall."
Churchill sent the money to the political action committee in January.
Churchill Downs spokeswoman Courtney Yopp Norris said in a statement that the company "works on a bipartisan level to support leaders who make issues that are important to us a priority. We have a history of backing individuals based on issues, regardless of political affiliation."
Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com