The news that a possible Kentucky Downs satellite gambling facility in Bowling Green was put on hold after a 7-3 vote by the City-County Planning Commission of Warren County last month was welcomed by Bowling Green Mayor Todd Alcott.
The commission voted to deny an amended development plan submitted by the BG Landco Corp. headed by Kentucky Downs owners Marc Falcone and Ronald Winchell.
That amendment would have paved the way for development of 58.8 acres along Ken Bale Boulevard for a gambling facility that would be similar to Kentucky Downs’ Mint Gaming Hall on a 16-acre tract across the road from Sam’s Club.
The application called for allowing a gambling facility and an establishment with more than 60% of the dedicated seating at a bar.
Asked last week by the Daily News what he thought about the proposed facility, Alcott said he was wary of having such a business in the city.
“I have concerns about what this will do (to) the community,” he said of a facility that would be based on legal gambling. “I lived it in Las Vegas,” where he was stationed in the Air Force, he said. “I saw the positive and the negative.”
Alcott was also critical of the process used to allow such a facility in Bowling Green.
The Kentucky General Assembly earlier this year legalized slot machine-like Historical Horse Racing machines. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission then gave the green light for Kentucky Downs to extend its licensed premises to within 60 miles of its Franklin racetrack – that made Bowling Green, by far the largest state population center in that radius, the obvious location for an expansion.
But at the Planning Commission meeting, member Dean Warren made a successful motion to deny the application.
“We had to decide if this would help diversify the local economy, support tourism and enhance the community,” said Warren. “I didn’t see that it would. I went strictly by what’s best for the community.”
Warren was joined by commissioners Shannon Blackburn, Sandy Clark, Debbie Richey, Rick Starks, India Unseld and Velma Runner in voting to deny. Tim Graham, Mary Vitale and Christiaan Volkert voted against denial with commissioners Greg Gay and Mary Belle Ballance absent.
Kentucky Downs officials indicated at the meeting that the effort to expand into Bowling Green would likely continue.
“We’ll be reviewing all options, but it’s too soon to say what will happen,” Bowling Green attorney Buzz English said. “I think there will be Historical Horse Racing machines in Bowling Green. It’s just a matter of where.”
But the Bowling Green City Commission would have the final say on the decision, no matter what the recommendation of the Planning Commission is.
“I don’t want to influence planning and zoning decisions (but) I’m proud of the decisions they made,” Alcott said.
Kentucky Downs officials declined last week to comment on the Planning Commission decision and plans moving forward.