FRANKFORT, Ky. (Legal Newsline) - Kentucky's attorney general has determined that the state Constitution does not need to be amended to allow the state Lottery Corporation to operate video lottery terminals at race tracks.
Attorney General Jack Conway's legal opinion determination comes from a May 7 request by Rep. Jody Ricahrds (D-Bowling Green). Richards was seeking information about whether electronic games at racetracks are allowable under the state Constitution's Section 226.
Conway expedited the request for the opinion to ensure that the information would be available at the start of the legislature's special session.
"My staff and I simply followed the law and allowed it to lead us to the proper legal conclusion on this issue," Conway said. "What we were asked to do was determine whether a provision allowing video lottery terminals at racetracks is allowed under the Kentucky Constitution, as amended, and we believe it is."
Kentucky currently has three legal forms of gambling - a state-run lottery, charitable gaming and pari-mutuel betting on horse racing.
Conway's opinion uses House Bill 158 from the 2009 regular session and Gov. Steve Beshear's draft video lottery terminal as its legal framework.
The opinion also utilizes the 1931 Jockey Club case ruling from Kentucky's highest court that provides the binding legal opinion on the gaming and lottery issues.
The opinion also asserts that if allowing other types of gaming under the auspices of the Kentucky Lottery Corporation was unconstitutional, then a 1990 statute passed by the General Assembly prohibiting the corporation from operating casino-style games would not have been passed. The opinion also states that the General Assembly can enact statutes that restrict of expand the types of games offered by the Kentucky Lottery Corporation.
Conway also notes that similar provisions expanding gaming have been upheld by courts in West Virginia, Missouri, Kansas, Oregon and New York.
Conway sought input from stakeholders on the opinion, including the Kentucky Equine Education Project and the Kentucky Citizens Against Gambling Expansion. The former responded the a request for its legal analysis, but the latter did not respond.
The attorney general's opinion, while not legally binding, is an advisory. The attorney general, if asked by a member of the legislature, by statute is required to to provide a legal opinion on an issue.