Democratic Party candidate Andy Beshear — who pledged to legalize commercial casinos, sports betting and online gaming if elected — has won Kentucky’s gubernatorial election.
In a tight race, the former Attorney General defeated incumbent Matt Bevin by 5,150 votes, 0.35% of the total turnout.
Beshear won in the state’s main population centers, claiming Jefferson County, which includes Louisville, by almost 100,000 votes, as well as Fayette County, including the city of Lexington, by more than 35,000 votes.
In September, Beshear detailed a policy under which tax revenue raised through gambling expansion would be fund a pension system for public servants such as teachers, police officers and firefighters.
In addition, some of the tax revenue under Beshear’s plan would go to local governments, with the intention that it would allow the governments to fund local services without raising taxes.
Beshear’s plan also requires casinos 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.
Currently, the only gambling allowed in Kentucky is 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.
Beshear said when he outlined the policy that neighbouring states’ more relaxed gambling laws were costing Kentucky a significant amount of tax revenue.
“Estimates show that Kentucky loses over $500m in tax revenue a year to neighboring states and less than ten casinos could generate over $1.7bn in economic activity in their first year,” Beshear said. “Indiana alone consistently nets hundreds of millions of Dollars in revenue every year.”
Beshear will still need the support of the state’s General Assembly to expand regulated gambling in the state. Currently, the State Senate and State House of Representatives are both controlled by Bevin’s Republican Party.