Governor’s race could determine expanded gaming’s future

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Expanded gaming, including legalizing casinos and sports wagering, is likely to come up again during the 2020 General Assembly, but how hard it will be pushed depends on who wins the Governor’s race this November.

Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, sponsored a bill during this year’s session to legalize sports wagering, but it did not receive a committee hearing in the Senate. He is proposing similar legislation for 2020.

Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, was joined by 20 co-sponsors in a bill during the 2019 session that would allow betting on sports contests, internet poker and fantasy sports contests. It won unanimous approval from the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee, but was never brought up for a vote on the House floor. Thus far, he has not yet proposed similar legislation for 2020.

Rep. Al Gentry, D-Louisville, introduced a proposed Constitutional Amendment providing for casino gambling, which was never heard in a House committee. That was the same story for casino legislation sponsored by Rep. Dennis Keene, D-Wilder. Keene is proposing similar legislation for the 2020 session.

Most of the bills would earmark at least a portion of proceeds to address the unfunded liability of Kentucky’s public pension systems.

As expected, Kentucky’s Republican and Democratic Gubernatorial candidates find themselves lining up on opposite sides of the issue.

Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear has often said he supports expanded gaming.

“Kentucky can’t afford to fall behind our neighboring states who are moving forward with the rest of the country on expanded gaming,” Beshear said. “We lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars a year. As governor, I will work to legalize sports betting, casinos, fantasy sports and prepare for online poker, and use the revenue from these activities as a dedicated funding stream for our public pension system.”

Beshear also says he would support a Constitutional Amendment legalizing medical marijuana.

“I would vote for it because I’ve seen the impact opioids have had on every Kentucky community. So many Kentucky families have seen a loved one fall into addiction, and their lives have been devastated. If medical marijuana is an alternative and gives people the chance to get pain relief without being subjected to opioids, I think it’s something we’ve got to explore.”

Republican incumbent Matt Bevin said during a recent radio interview that he opposes both expanded gaming and legalizing marijuana.

“Every night, somewhere in America, somebody takes their life in a casino, because they’ve wasted the last semblance of dignity and hope that they had. Families are ruined, lives are ruined. There is a societal cost, and there is no political appetite for this in Kentucky.”
Even if there were no negatives with casino gambling, Bevin said the math doesn’t work there.

“The idea that we could make maybe $200 million a year with casino gambling taxes, means there are billions being spent that might better be spent somewhere else,” Bevin said. “If we all wanted to gamble and smoke pot at the same time, it would still be 200 years, just to earn the money we already owe today. These are not serious solutions.”

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Gene Cole

The Bill introduced by Mr. Koenig in paragraph 3 is still alive. The Interim Joint Committee on Licensing, Occupaton, and Administrative Regulations met August 21, 2019. Part of the meeting was devoted to HB175. This is the bill Introduced by Mr. Koenig in the last General Session.

Vince Gabbert, Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Keeneland spoke in support of the bill.

I, Gene Cole, Assistant Executive Director, Kentucky League on Alcohol and Gambling Problems/ Kentucky Ethics League spoke in opposition.

KET video recorded the meeting, but as of the 26th of August, they are having coding issues and getting it posted on the KET Legislative web site.

So far there have been 2 bills pre-filled for the upcoming session.

The first one is BR 80 which will allow for casinos and have them operated by the Horse Racing Commission. This bill will also impact the Historical Horse Racing Machines. Currently there is a case pending in the Kentucky Supreme Court to decide if these machines are slot machines. (Slot Machines are illegal under current law)

The Bill in the second paragraph sponsored by Gov. Carroll is BR 236.

All of the bills can be viewed on the KY. LEGISLATIVE website.

There is a Medical Marijuana Bill from last year that might be resurrected like HB 175. So far I have not seen any new bills on Medical or Recreational Marijuana.

The next meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing, Occupation, and Administrative Regulations is scheduled for September 11, 2019 at 3 pm. Frankfort time. They have not posted an agenda yet.

Thank You

Gene Cole

Assistant Executive Director

Kentucky League on Alcohol and Gambling Problems/ Kentucky Ethics League

502-371-9984

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

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