Kentucky is one of the most historically anti-gambling states in the country, but one of its candidates for the state’s governorship is looking to reverse that trend.
Democrat Andy Beshear is campaigning against the Republican incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin in the state’s gubernatorial race. One of the main focuses of Beshear’s campaign is his desire to expand gaming in the state, according to an AP report.
Beshear, who is currently the state’s attorney general, is in favor of legalizing casino gambling. Kentucky is currently one of the few states in the country without a casino. Beshear would like to legalize the activity, tax the operators, and use the revenue to fund the state’s public pension system.
Kentucky is surrounded by states with legal gambling operations. Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, and West Virginia all have legal casinos. Indiana and West Virginia also have legal sports betting. Tennessee, Kentucky’s neighbor to the south, doesn’t have any land-based gambling operations but did pass an online-only sports betting bill earlier this year.
Beshear argues that the government is letting money cross state lines by continuing to prohibit casino gaming in Kentucky. He estimates that the Bluegrass state would take in more than $500 million in yearly gaming tax revenue.
“Expanded gaming is a long-overdue and common sense way to make Kentucky more competitive and protect the hard-earned pensions of our teachers and first responders,” said Beshear in a statement. “While Matt Bevin is making up excuses and false claims, Indiana and our neighboring states continue to steal our revenue.”
Beshear’s campaign produced a video to illustrate the point. In the video, Beshear’s running mate Jacqueline Coleman crossed the Ohio River and headed into Indiana, where she made a $5 sports bet at an Indiana casino and observed many cars in the parking lot with Kentucky license plates.
Bevin, on the other hand, argues against any expanded gambling proposals. He called Beshear’s proposal a “sucker’s bet” and cited that societal costs from problem gambling would offset any increased tax revenue.
In a radio interview from August, Bevin made the claim that suicide at casinos are a nightly occurrence.
“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,” Bevin said on WKDZ.
The American Gaming Association responded to those claims by saying that were ‘patently false.’
The state has a history of not just keeping gambling illegal, but taking action against certain gaming businesses. In 2008, lawmakers attempted to seize online poker domain names and the state is still in a legal battle with The Stars Group. The state filed an $870 million lawsuit against the online poker giant in 2010 for operating in the state after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was passed in 2006.
Other Republicans in the state are not as anti-gambling as Bevin. A bill to legalize both online poker and sports betting was sponsored by Republican lawmakers last February, although it ultimately failed to advance any further.
With the current legal landscape in Kentucky, residents are only allowed to bet on horse races. Outside of pari-mutuel wagering, only charitable gaming is permitted.