Gambling On Kentucky

Exactly four years ago today, Governor Steve Beshear proposed up to twelve casinos in Kentucky. As of Tuesday morning his latest proposal wants to allow up to seven casinos to operate in the commonwealth. You may ask what is different except the number of gambling palaces. Well first of all, this new proposal only allows a statewide referendum on the idea. The new bill is also being introduced by a Republican in the State Senate. Not something I would have guessed could happen four years ago.

None of these changes guarantee passage. In fact I’d guess the chances are less than 50 percent the measure makes it through both chambers. Moreover, it’s come so late in the session that it may not clear conference committees in time. All those risks aside it could
also get lost in the pileup being caused by redistricting and the various lawsuits surrounding THAT little sideshow. Oh by the way there is also a biennial budget to pass too.

Senator Damon Thayer is the primary sponsor of the gambling bill. He says he expects the measure to come before his State And Local Government Committee on February 22, and says he’ll call a vote that same day. It might not be that easy. Thayer should–and probably
does–expect heavy opposition and lobbying to go on leading up to that date. At least one organization says the bill is a mistake, but The Family Foundation isn’t a new player here. While they will be organized, it would behoove them to pull others into the tent. Otherwise the organization runs the risk of being a lone wolf in vocal opposition.

Honestly, seven casinos seems like too many to me. I understand the race tracks getting one each, but two other stand-alone facilities are also possible under this measure. That means at least one casino in Louisville, Lexington, and probably Franklin at Kentucky
Downs. Also likely is a facility at Turfway Park, or possibly at Ellis Park in Henderson. Where the others could go is anyone’s guess right now.

As for a vote by the people? It’s high time this happens. Over the past several years, up to 80 percent of those polled want to vote on the idea. That’s not saying it will pass, but allowing voters to decide this is the only rational, and fair method to this continuing
madness. In fact my guess is that gaming will not pass if it’s on the ballot. Just a gut feeling I have. One thing’s for sure. If this does become an election issue, PAC money will flow into Kentucky like a river, and special interest groups will run rampant with
advertising. There will be bloodletting politically too. Lawmakers could face tough re-election challenges depending on which way the fight goes.