Cumberland Run

A project to bring horse racing to Knox County has been in the works since Spring 2015.

In a move that put to rest worries about a new horse racing track destined for Corbin, the Kentucky House of Representatives voted to re-legalize historical horse racing, a slot-machine style of gambling.

In jeopardy if Senate Bill 120 wasn’t passed was the future of the new track scheduled for construction in western Knox County.

Many legistlators argued against allowing historical racing, citing moral and ethical concerns. However, other elected officials took to the industry’s defense, including Knox County’s State Representative, Tom O’Dell Smith.

Smith released a statement concerning his vote:

“I would like to take time to explain my vote on what most are referring too as the Horse Bill. SB 120 was voted on Thursday in the House chambers. I voted yes and want to explain why. 

“First I want to clarify it was not a vote on gambling, the horse tracks was approved in the 1930’s to allow gambling at a horse track. This bill was to clarify the meaning of parimutuel. Ten years ago the Horse Racing Commission gave licenses to the Horse tracks to allow historical racing machines to be put into their facilities and they did and Kentucky taxed the revenue. The courts upheld them in early rulings until it made its way to the Supreme Court. They ruled in November that the language needed clarification from the legislature and that’s how the bill got to a vote.

“When a vote is taken you have only two choices, yes or no. I weighed out both of these. A no vote would have closed three race tracks in Kentucky — Ellis Park, Turfway, and Kentucky Downs. Thousands of jobs would have been lost and our horse industry would have been crippled. In the past 20 years the horse industry in Kentucky went from number one as the horse capital of the world to number four behind Florida, New York and California, all because of allowing other means of revenue. We would have lost Keeneland locating on the bypass and investing millions in our area and creating hundreds of jobs, not to mention all the restaurants and hotels that will come with this investment. 

“I believe in representing the 45,000 in my district is priority, but I also believe as a statesman, I should support the rest of the state in a billion dollar industry that has thousands of familys at risk. I remember President Obama saying he was taking out the coal industry and he did, not even caring that 20+ thousand of Eastern Kentucky men and women would lose their jobs. My son-in-law was one of them when CSX on (a) Monday morning said he was no longer employed after 10 years of work. I’m not going to vote to take away thousands of families’ jobs as long as I have a vote. 

“Is it easy? No. But as your State Representative and mostly as your neighbor, I’m always going to take each vote seriously and mostly remember it effects more than me.”

Construction on the new Keeneland track off the Corbin bypass is slated to be announced in a few weeks.

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Charles is a native of Barbourville, Kentucky. He has worked with The Mountain Advocate in various capacities since 2003.

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