Gaming passes 3-to-1 in Boyd County | News

CATLETTSBURG The Boyd County Fiscal Court approved by a 3-to-1 vote a lease of the old Sears building to Revolutionary Racing Kentucky LLC, following a lengthy public comment section.

Boyd County Judge-Executive Eric Chaney, Commissioner Larry Brown and Commissioner Keith Watts all voted in favor of the lease, which would allow for historical horse racing machines inside the Sears building at the Camp Landing property. Commissioner Randy Stapleton voted against it.

Prior to taking the vote, Brown — a Christian and a teetotaler himself — said the decision to vote in favor of the lease was hard. Having fielded hundreds of calls, Brown said he made notes on various people’s support to help guide him.

“I not only represent District 2 in Boyd County, I represent the county,” he said. “I spoke with Larry Lucas, the president of Revolutionary Racing, and I spoke with the superintendents of the schools. I wish the voters could be the ones to make the decision, but by law the decision is up to us.”

Brown touched on a personal note as well — he said a brother of his died as a result of alcoholism just two weeks ago.

“I understand the concerns about addiction as it relates to gambling,” Brown said. “We did everything we could change him, but we couldn’t. You can’t change what people do.”

Chaney said if it was up to him, there would’ve been a local option vote. But that’s not how the state law works, he said.

“If this could’ve been a local option, we would have had it,” Chaney said. “This is one of the hardest votes this court has ever taken.”

While Stapleton declined to speak prior to the vote, he issued this statement to the newspaper:

“I’m voting no on the horse gambling center because I have had several Christian people voice their concern to me and as a Christian myself, I feel like this could be detrimental to our county. We are all anxious to see growth come to Boyd County, but I feel we must be tasteful when it comes to what type of growth we need in our county. I have grandchildren growing up in this community and I’d like for them to be able to get a respectful job in our little town. I agree it seems enticing in some aspects of this venture, but I cannot in with good conscience vote yes on this matter.”

During the public comment section, the fiscal court heard voices from the religious community, labor (the track would be built with union tradesmen), local candidates and other members of the community.

Some criticized the moving of the meeting from June 7 to Friday instead, while also asking why the lease could not be made publicly available before the vote. Chaney said under Kentucky statute, it is exempt until a vote is taken.

Others brought up the evils of gambling, with one pastor even mentioning that the Roman soldiers rolled dice at the feet of Christ on the cross.

One young man, Trevor Vice, used Biblical reasoning to support the project.

“I think all too often Christians apply their morality onto other people,” Vice said. “There’s no laws we can pass that will change people’s ways. Only Jesus can produce a change in somebody. It is not my Christian duty to outlaw these sins, it is my duty to love people and show them Jesus. I am for this — let the adults and Christians work it out, let Jesus do his job, let the track do its job.”

City Commission candidate David Williams questioned the viability of the project, noting that quarter horse racing is predominantly west of the Mississippi.

“I just think we’re rushing into this without asking where will the horses and the trainers come from,” Williams said. “I think the primary driver of this is the casino. Now, I don’t want my tax money going to support such a thing.”

After the vote, Lucas said he appreciated the vote and respects the process, but he didn’t want to comment too much until the licensing process is under way.

A statement emailed to the paper by the outfit’s press person stated the following:

“Revolutionary Racing Kentucky is incredibly appreciative of the support form the Boyd County Fiscal Court as we prepare to invest $50 million into a first-of-its-kind equine facility and entertainment complex. That investment will create hundreds of jobs and millions in new tax revenues.

Horse racing is Kentucky’s signature industry and the attention, revenue and jobs it creates for communities all across the state is evidence of what it can mean for Boyd County.

We are excited to take this step and together with the Kentucky Quarter Horse Racing Association, will now be applying for the ninth and final horse racing license with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.”

After the vote, Dr. Richard Connelley, President of the Kentucky Quarter Horse Racing Association, said the step toward a track would not only help Boyd County, but would revitalize Quarter Horse racing in the East.

“We’re planting a seed in a garden we let go to hell,” Connelley said. “Back in the day, we’d race quarter horses along any flat stretch we could find. We’d do limited meets at the Red Mile and bring in thousands of people. This is going to help quarter horse racing get into the east.”

Chuck Williams, a candidate for Ashland City Commission, voiced his opposition to the lease prior to the vote. After the vote, he said he was disappointed with the fiscal court and would not vote for Chaney in the future.

“I wish more thought and time was put into this,” Williams said. “I thought a convention center there would have been great — myself and Jason Camp (owner of Camp Landing) were talking about athletic events to bring people in. Now that it’s going to be gambling, I’m definitely not taking my kids to Malibu Jack’s now.”

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