FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Groups opposed to expanded gaming rallied at the State Capitol on Thursday, a few days after Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to approve all aspects of gambling to shore up Kentucky’s public pension systems.
Richard Nelson, executive director of the Commonwealth Policy Center, who sponsored the event along with the Family Foundation, brought up an instant racing parlor approved by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission in Christian County’s Oak Grove community, where they will have live racing a dozen days per year, with instant racing 365 days a year.
“Make no mistake, this is expanded casino-style gambling without legislative approval, without public input, and it’s being pushed in the midst of an eight-year long legal battle, which is yet to determine whether the instant racing machines are legal,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the instant racing machines are the same as slot machines. “They say this is instant racing because they’ll have a two- or three-inch video in the corner of these things, and they show the last two or three seconds of a previously run horse race.”
Nelson noted that for years the mantra was “let the people decide” and put a constitutional amendment on the ballot.
“Today we have instant racing in four cities and the people haven’t decided, nor has the legislature ever voted to approve any kind of gambling expansion,” he said.
Hershael York, pastor of Frankfort’s Buck Run Baptist Church and Dean of Theology at the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, said the issue of expanded gaming has been around for over 15 years, and keeps cropping back up.
“We have defeated this again and again and again, every time they have raised it,” he said. “It has gone down in the legislature. They wanted an up or down vote in the Senate, they got that. It failed. They have tried in so many ways and it has failed, so now they’re doing an end run around the Constitution of Kentucky.”
York said if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck, and these are slot machines.
“How can the Horse Racing Commission license casinos and slot-type machines by pretending that it’s pari-mutuel wagering?” he wondered. “Why does the racing commissioner have a gambling consultant who’s paid by casino operators? Either we respect our Constitution, or we render it moot, meaningless and a sham.”
York said the location of the new facility, in Oak Grove, is no accident. “They’re right up the road from Gate 4 of Ft. Campbell, where our soldiers who are serving our country will be given weekend passes and a paycheck, and they want to pick their pockets. As a Kentuckian, I resent that outside companies like Caesar’s can come into our state and pick the pockets of our people and our soldiers.”
Another reason York opposes the Commission action: “Churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship are going to bear the social costs,” he said. “This brings misery into families. I have had to stand with a dad in front of a judge because he embezzled over $100,000 to support his gambling habit. I personally had to make sure those children were fed and clothed so they could go to school.”
He cited some of the poor rankings Kentucky has such as obesity, health and financial stability, and asked, “Which of those problems is gambling going to solve? You know the answer as well as I do, it will not help any of them. It will contribute to most of them, and it will create new problems that we don’t have right now.
“We need an industry that produces, not one that seduces.”