Beshear Says Ky. Is In "Budget Crisis;" Push For Casino Gaming Continues

(FLORENCE, KY) -- Governor Steve Beshear says Kentucky is in a "budget crisis," but tax increases would be a last resort.

Beshear delivered his first State of the Commonwealth address Monday night before a joint session of the Legislature.

The sorry state of the Commonwealth's finances may be a bugle call for race tracks like Turfway Park.

For years, they've been pushing for casino gaming.

And Governor Beshear favors that, too. So state lawmakers may have to give voters  choice.

When it comes to horses here, there's no horsing around.

"I've always been around it, all my life, you know, it's just in my blood, I guess," says Shawn Mitchell.

Playing the ponies may be in Shawn Mitchell's blood, but he'd be happy to share his space at Turfway Park.

"I'd rather have Kentucky have it than Indiana. That's more tax money for Kentucky," he said.

For more than a decade, Turfway's led a charge to bring casinos to Kentucky to help buoy the horse industry.

This year, it may finally pay off.

Kentucky faces a nearly $500 million budget shortfall, with worse economic times ahead.

And casinos could be a way out.

"Kentuckians are spending an excess of $2.5 billion dollars a year on gambling," says Bob Elliston, president of Turfway Park. "Really, what we're talking about it bringing our revenues back home, simply by letting us do in Kentucky what we're already doing in other states."

Elliston's spending his track's busy season convincing lawmakers to put a casino question on the November ballot.

Polls say roughly 8 in 10 Kentuckians at least want to vote on casinos.

Horse bettors like Mitchell say once the debate can officially happen, they're sure Kentucky will pick a winner.

"If they can do it, we can do it, too. That's how I look at it," he says.