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House OKs bill to set flat tax rate for parimutuel wagers

March 21, 2022 GMT

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky House passed legislation Monday that would set a flat tax rate for every parimutuel wager placed in a state known as the world’s horse capital.

The measure, sent to the Senate on a 66-29 vote, would keep the tax rate unchanged for slots-style historical horse racing machines. Critics called that a bad deal for the state, with Democratic Rep. Lisa Willner saying the tax rate is “outrageously low” on the fast-proliferating machines.

The bill would set a 1.5% tax rate on all parimutuel bets — including wagers on live racing at Kentucky track, simulcast bets on races at other tracks and advance-deposit wagering. The state currently has different tax rates for various forms of wagering.

Republican Rep. Adam Koenig said the bill positions the horse racing industry for more growth

“We’re going to make Kentucky the most desirable place if you want to wager on horses in North America,” said Koenig, the bill’s lead sponsor. “And that’s going to create more revenue, that’s going to create more opportunities for our tracks.”

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The provision keeping the 1.5% tax rate on historical horse racing wagering drew opposition.

The slots-like machines are generating “enormous industry profits for a powerful few” while contributing “a tiny fraction of what a reasonable proposal would raise” for state coffers, Willner said. She likened the current tax rate to “leaving a $15 tip on a $1,000 banquet.”

Historical racing machines allow people to bet on randomly generated, past horse races. The games typically show video of condensed horse races. Tracks have reinvested some of the revenue to make Kentucky’s horse racing circuit more competitive with casino-backed tracks in other states.