Kentucky Senators Say Gambling Bill Would Be ‘Dead on Arrival’

  • Two Republican Senators say there is no way a gambling expansion bill would get momentum
  • State has one of the country's worst-funded public pension systems and needs a revenue driver
  • Republicans will look at other measures to generate new revenue, but not gambling expansion
  • Democrat Andy Beshear is running for the governorship and wants to expand gambling
United States and Kentucky state flags
Senate President Robert Stivers and Majority Leader Damon Thayer have made it clear that they are againt any expansion of gambling in Kentucky. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Republicans make their position clear

As the race for the state governorship heats up, two Kentucky Republican senators have said that any gambling bill which reaches their chamber during the next legislative session will be “dead in the water”.

One of the leading candidates for governorship, Democrat Andy Beshear, wants to legalize commercial casinos and sports betting. Beshear believes this is the ideal way to generate revenue to solve the state’s public pension crisis.

However, Senate President Robert Stivers and Majority Leader Damon Thayer have condemned such a proposal.

Joint statement issued

The two senators released a joint statement on the issue. In this statement, they say that Beshear’s proposal is being sold to voters “as a panacea for the Commonwealth’s financial concerns”. They also took the opportunity to reinforce their stance, stating:

We want to be abundantly clear, there is absolutely no chance any such effort would pass the Senate in an upcoming session.”

The two senators believe that such a bill would not have a realistic chance of passing in the legislature. They also believe that projected revenues for such a move are drastically overstated. As a result, it would not be a viable solution for the issues relating to the state’s pension systems and to help increase the pay of teachers.

The statement rounded off by saying that the Senate would continue looking at new legislation to create a better economic environment which would lead to more tax revenue. However, the senators say that casino gambling will be “unequivocally off the table”.

Opponents respond

Sitting state governor, Matt Bevin, who is running for reelection also commented on the issue. He said that previous votes in the legislature show that opposition to Beshear’s “gimmicks” is bipartisan.

previous votes in the legislature show that opposition to Beshear’s “gimmicks” is bipartisan

The Campaign Chairman for Beshear, Eric Hyer issued a response to these Republican comments. He said that Beshear would continue to push for the expansion of gaming in the state to fund public pensions.

Hyer said: “Andy will work across the aisle to get this done, regardless of the political rhetoric that gets thrown out during the final days of a political campaign.”

Push for gambling expansion

Kentucky is one of the few states in the country that does not have much of a gambling presence outside of horse racing and the state lottery. 

Beshear estimates that $1.7bn in economic activity could be generated during the first year of full gambling expansion.

Without expansion, Kentucky residents will continue crossing state lines and spending their money there. Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois all have casinos that are very close to Kentucky state lines.

However, one of the main opponents of gambling expansion is the horse racing sector. About $300m in tax revenue comes from this sector each year. Governor Bevin also believes that there are too many societal costs associated with gambling