Opinion: Kentucky Gubernatorial Candidate’s Plan to Use Sports Betting to Bolster School Security Shows State of America

  • Spending on school safety has grown drastically recently
  • Kentucky’s neighbor, Tennessee, had a school shooting two weeks ago
  • Guns are the leading cause of death of youths in America
  • Increased school security spending often has a negligible impact
Gun control protest
A Kentucky gubernatorial candidate is asking to redirect sports betting tax revenues to bolster school safety. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Sports betting equals school safety

Kentucky Republican gubernatorial candidate Alan Keck is lobbying to use legal sports betting tax revenues to increase funding for school safety. That’s right, the implication is that gambling on sports is now the way to save children’s lives.

ensuring that our kids, our teachers and our administrators get home safe every day”

“There is simply nothing more important than ensuring that our kids, our teachers and our administrators get home safe every day,” Keck said during a social media unveiling of his plan.

Keck proposed the idea last Thursday, one week after a bill to legalize sports betting emerged victorious in the state legislature. Democratic Governor Andy Beshear swiftly signed the bill into law once it went before him.

What’s really going on

While sports betting is the talk of the town on a national scale, school shootings are swiftly benumbing a country that is learning to accept them as unfortunate circumstances rather than avoidable tragedies. 

According to a Washington Post article updated on April 3, there have been 377 school shootings since the Columbine massacre on April 20, 1999. Security.org says in an article updated January 2023 that there have been 392 deaths and 1,119 injuries in K-12 shootings since the same starting point. 

Researchers from Harvard Medical School also found that gun violence costs the country $557bn every year (2.6% of the national GDP), most of which goes to quality-of-life loss payments to victims and their families.

That sad reality has not come without effort from the top level, though. The U.S. educational security market exceeded $3.1bn in total value in 2021, and more than 90% of schools have electronic emergency notification systems. Roughly the same percentage of schools also have security cameras according to Omdia, a technology research and consultancy company.

Despite the increased funding, Keck believes that Kentucky can do a better job protecting its children if it can increase its allocated spending total through the legalization of sports betting. He aims to redirect the funds’ current planned flow, a majority of which is to the state public pension fund, to school safety.

Early estimates suggest that the Bluegrass State will claim an extra $23m in annual funding through legal sports wagering. Several proponents believe the figure could be even higher than that, perhaps on the back of impassioned locals that know they can save another child’s life if they bet on the Wildcats tonight. 

Long-term instability

Republican Senator Max Wise, the running mate of fellow Republican gubernatorial candidate Kelly Craft, is also a profound supporter of increased school safety in Kentucky.

Just two weeks ago, neighboring Tennessee was victimized by a shooting at The Covenant School, a Christian elementary school in Nashville. 

Guns have also been the leading killer of children in America since 2020, when they overtook car accidents. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention WONDER database, 19% of youth deaths in 2021 were from firearms.

American lawmakers have been stymied by opposing lobbyists and political gridlock

But whereas school shootings are rarities in other countries in large part because of gun laws, American lawmakers have been stymied by opposing lobbyists and political gridlock. Government spending designated to help school safety is not guaranteed to make an impact at its desired end, either.

“[School safety spending is] a roller coaster,” said Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services. “There’s no long-term consistency.” 

Trump pointed out that spending often comes in the form of one-off grants aimed at glaring weaknesses rather than overall infrastructural developments. He also said that millions of dollars can turn into “peanuts” when spread across an entire state, forcing local legislators to look for other answers—hence the sports betting-based debate in Kentucky.

Keck’s efforts will hinge largely on his success in the upcoming race for the governorship. January sampling from polling and analysis company FiveThirtyEight revealed that Beshear had a solid advantage despite the state increasingly growing in favor of the GOP.

So remember: win or lose, you place that bet tonight. You might be the one to stop another family’s mourning.

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