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Will Expanded Gaming Gain Traction In Kentucky?

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Will Expanded Gaming Gain Traction In Kentucky?

Democratic Governor Andy Beshear’s platform on expanded gaming has support from some lawmakers this coming legislative session, but efforts to legalize casinos and other forms of gambling face tough opposition in the Republican-controlled legislature. 

The topic was discussed on WFPL’s In Conversation, which looked into expanded gaming and whether proposals for it have a chance in the 2020 General Assembly. Our guests were:

Legislators have pre-filed four bills this upcoming legislative session that are related to expanded gaming. Those bills would allow casino gaming, sports wagering, online poker and more in the commonwealth. Democratic State Representative Al Gentry is sponsoring two of those bills and says he is co-sponsoring a third on sports betting. Gentry said Kentucky could raise much-needed revenue if it expanded gaming like neighboring Indiana.

“These revenus have created a brand-new sewer system in Harrison County [Indiana] — miles and miles of new water lines. Miles of new, paved roads that used to be rock … the results are amazing,” Gentry said. “If we can legalize and regulate the activity here, we can keep our discretional spending in this state, in this city, and we can address our residents that are really struggling with [gambling addiction] in a much better way.”

Kentucky Council On Problem Gambling President Dr. Herbert “Bud” Newman said his organization is neutral when it comes to gambling, and understands that businesses look to expanded gaming for more revenue. But Newman said the state should help treat people who suffer from addiction, too.

“When we increase the opportunities for gaming, we will also increase the number of folks who have some type of disorder gambling going on. And we need to be able to treat them,” Newman said. “The commonwealth has a responsibility, a social responsibility, to provide monies for prevention, awareness and treatment. The council would oppose any bill that came up that didn’t provide for that.”

Gentry said the proposed casino and sports betting bills would set aside money for such services. Kentucky Public Radio Capitol Bureau Chief Ryland Barton said expanded gaming proposals would likely not become law because they face tough hurdles in the legislature, especially a measure that would put the matter on the ballot.

“Republican leaders in the legislature have said they are not interested at all in passing this bill, and this would be a constitutional amendment — it has a higher threshold that it needs to pass to pass out of the legislature,” Barton said. “So it appears that expanded gambling will be dead on arrival, however there are some other revenue raising proposals that lawmakers have been toying with."

Join us next week for In Conversation as we talk about criminal record expungement.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.