Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear has announced plans to significantly expand Kentucky’s legal gambling market by legalizing commercial casinos, sports betting and online gaming if elected.
Under Beshear’s proposed policy, tax revenue raised through gambling expansion would be fund the pension system for public servants. This would benefit the state’s teachers, police officers, firefighters and social workers.
The candidate added that the extra tax revenue brought in from legalized gambling could be used to fund local services such as health clinics, without the need for local tax increases.
Currently, the only gambling allowed in Kentucky are pari-mutuel horse and dog race betting and charitable games such as the state lottery.
However, six of the seven adjacent states offer legal casinos, while Indiana and West Virginia also offer legal sports betting, with Illinois soon to follow.
As a result of the widespread gambling available in neighbouring states, Beshear said, Kentucky was losing tax revenue and jobs – something he said current Republican Governor Matt Bevin has not done enough to stop.
“Estimates show that Kentucky loses over $500 million in tax revenue a year to neighboring states and less than ten casinos could generate over $1.7 billion in economic activity in their first year,” Beshear explained. “Indiana alone consistently nets hundreds of millions of Dollars in revenue every year.”
“Matt Bevin used to say that neighboring states were ‘eating our lunch’,” he continued. “But rather than make Kentucky competitive with its neighbors, this governor prefers to spread lies about expanded gaming, while states like Indiana, West Virginia, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, and Ohio continue to open up new gaming opportunities just across our borders.
“Expanded gaming will make Kentucky more competitive and stop neighboring states from stealing our revenue and the economic opportunities that come with it.”
In order to ensure the proposals do not lead to an increase in problem gambling in the state, Beshear said non-profit organizations tackling gambling addiction and treatment centres will be included planning discussions.
He added that casinos will be required to provide financial support for treatment facilities, while the Cabinet of Health and Family Services will be tasked with producing an annual report on gambling addiction statistics.
Beshear currently serves as the Attorney General for Kentucky, after winning the 2015 election by a margin of 2,196 votes out of 957,664 cast. On 21 May, Beshear won the Democratic nomination for governor, with the election to take place on 5 November.
In August, state senator and former governor Julian Carroll made an effort to legalize sports wagering in the state by prefiling legislation for the 2020 legislative session that would amend the state’s current gambling laws to include sports betting at any horse racing tracks and off-track wagering facilities.
Carroll had previously made efforts to pass sports betting legislation in the 2018 and 2019 legislative sessions, but neither bill got a hearing.