CATLETTSBURG The Boyd County Fiscal Court is poised to vote on a lease to rent out the old Sears Building to Revolutionary Racing on Thursday evening.

The meeting and the vote will be conducted at the Boyd County Community Center in Cannonsburg, off of Ky. 180, at 6 p.m.

Boyd County Judge-Executive Eric Chaney said the vote on the lease does not mean plans for a convention center are shelved, nor does it mean other plans such as a farmers market and a sports complex have been bunted, either.

“This race track is not in place of, but in addition to, plans at the Camp Landing Entertainment District,” Chaney said. “There are still ongoing conversations about having a convention center located in that general area.”

According to Chaney, when plans for Camp Landing were first laid out, a horse track wasn’t on anyone’s mind.

“This was brought up a few months back,” he said. “This was something that just kind of fell into our laps. We couldn’t afford to pass this up.”

Chaney said he wanted to make it clear that the lease is just one hurdle for quite a few Revolutionary Racing will have to clear before securing the last remaining horse track license in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. He said signing into a lease helps them pursue the licensure process.

While Revolutionary Racing could not say much due to the license processes, its press person Steve Patterson offered the following statement to the newspaper:

“Revolutionary Racing Kentucky has proposed investing more than $50 million into a first-of-its-kind equine facility in Boyd County. That includes converting the abandoned Sears into an entertainment complex that will provide both immediate and lasting economic benefits.

“Horse racing is Kentucky’s signature industry. The attention, revenue and jobs it creates for communities all across the state is evidence of what it can mean for Boyd County. and Historic Horse Racing is proven to create even more jobs, more revenue and more tourism.

“We greatly appreciate the Boyd County Fiscal Court’s understanding and consideration of this substantial investment for the community. With their support — and in partnership with the Kentucky Quarter Horse Racing Association — we plan to apply for the ninth and final horse racing license with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.”

At the last fiscal court meeting, when the court took a vote to finalize an ordinance to allow Chaney to negotiate the terms of a lease, Camp Landing owner Jason Camp voiced his displeasure about having a historical horse racing site next to Malibu Jack’s, stating it didn’t jive with the family-friendly atmosphere.

Camp said he hasn’t had much conversations in the intervening weeks with the court, but he still stands by his statements.

“I don’t mind casinos, I don’t mind gambling, but I don’t want this directly next to Malibu Jack’s,” he said. “I think the county is taking the easiest route out of building the convention center, which we planned when we purchased the mall.”

Rapid inflation has caused some aspects of the project — most notably the farmers market — to stall due to estimates coming in roughly double the price, Chaney acknowledged.

However, Chaney noted that prior to Revolutionary Racing approaching the county about leasing the Sears building, Camp had tried to work out a deal with them himself.

“Prior to the lease, he (Camp) had alternative offers for them (Revolutionary Racing) and it’s my understanding those offers did not move forward,” he said. “Other portions of the site were shown by Mr. Camp to Revolutionary Racing.”

Camp didn’t deny Chaney’s account, stating that he had shown Revolutionary Racing the area near the Rural King and some out parcels on the site as spots for a historic race gaming area.

“I was thinking of an outparcel, but when they went for the Sears I sent over a list of 25 things they could do, such as fencing it off from the rest of the district or putting in a separate parking garage, so we could protect our other tenants,” Camp said.

Camp also dispelled any rumors that his offer to buy back the Sears building was a way for him to sell it back to Revolutionary Racing.

“That’s never been my intention,” Camp said. “I would like to buy it back and either lease it or sell it to a party would do what we originally wanted to do — build a convention center.”

Camp continued, “I would even put it in writing that I would not sell it to Revolutionary Racing.”

During the May 12 meeting of the Boyd County Fiscal Court, questions surrounding safety, gambling addiction and crime were brought by city commission candidate David Williams and local GOP Women’s Club president Lana White.

Sheriff Bobby Jack Woods said he’s been doing due diligence on what effects horse tracks and “gaming centers” (Woods said he doesn’t call the project a casino since it can’t legally have card games or slot machines) has on law enforcement.

Through speaking with multiple sheriff’s offices around Kentucky and in Virginia, Woods said he’s been advised the establishments have been great community partners and do not cause a lot of issues.

“I had one sheriff tell me they get more calls to Walmart than the track,” Woods said. “He gets more calls to unlock people’s cars at the golf course than to the gaming centers.”

In terms of law enforcement, Woods said most of the issues created by a track comes down to traffic enforcement.

As far as the toll that gambling addiction could have on the county, Woods said gambling is already here.

“We already have gambling problems here. Six days a week, there’s a bingo game going on in this county. There’s scratch-off tickets here, there’s slot machines in the states bordering us,” Woods said.

Woods continued, “I know there are people who don’t want this for religious and moral purposes. I go to church, I don’t drink and I don’t gamble. But I think the assets of this are going to outweigh the liabilities.”

Woods also pointed out an establishment like Malibu Jack’s — where kids play games for tickets — is essentially a training camp for a potential gambling addiction.

“If you really think about, it’s gambling for kids,” he said. “It’s like if you give a kid an energy drink when they’re 6 years old — that just primes them for addiction later in life.”

Chaney said the vote on Thursday is not a decision to allow gambling in the county — that has already been decided by the state law and it is not a local option like alcohol, he said.

“At the end of the day, I am a free-market conservative Republican,” Chaney said. “If you don’t want to gamble, if you don’t want to drink, that’s your choice. But we need to give people the choice, because if not, we’re losing out.”

Added Chaney: “There are 119 other counties there who would jump on this in a heartbeat. We need to show them we’re here and this is the real deal.”

(606) 326-2653

henry@dailyindependent.com

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