There are many things that hinge on the future in the 2020 elections, both nationally and for each state. In Kentucky, a state that has embraced thoroughbred racing and betting on those races, there are thoughts about expanding the state’s offering beyond betting the ponies. Those future plans, however, will hinge on the 2019 vote for Governor of the Bluegrass State.
Pro-Gaming Democrats Proposing Legislation
There is a list of Kentucky Democrats proposing gaming regulations that run the gamut. State Senator Julian Carroll from Frankfort has pushed for sports wagering in the state, going as far as to sponsor legislation for the industry. It didn’t get a hearing from its appropriate Senate committee, but Carroll would like to refile the legislation in 2020.
State Representative Adam Koenig of Erlanger had 20 sponsors on a bill that would pass wide-sweeping legislation. Koenig’s legislation would authorize sports betting, online poker and daily fantasy sports alongside horse racing in the state. The House’s Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee passed the bill through the committee with unanimous consent, but it failed to come to the floor of the House. Two other Representatives, Al Gentry of Louisville and Dennis Keene of Wilder, have proposed Constitutional Amendments to allow for casino gaming in the state, with Gentry’s bill failing to garner any traction but Keene’s visions looking to 2020.
The reasons for wanting to pass gaming legislation? As usual in most of the cases where states are eyeing gaming, it is a money and budgetary issue. Several studies have found that a full-fledged live “brick and mortar” casino industry in the state could bring in up to $465 million in revenues for the state. If there were an online casino/poker/sports betting component added to that, the potential revenues – which would go to counter the Kentucky public pension system, which has been unfunded for years – would eliminate a serious deficit issue.
Where Do the Candidates Stand?
Current Attorney General Andy Beshear is the candidate for the Democratic Party, and he is ready to give expanded gaming options and other things a chance. According to the Richmond Register’s Tom Latek, Beshear is ready to open up casinos, the online world AND pass legislation that would legalize medical marijuana. Such things were once thought to be verboten in the state because of unfounded fears that it would impact the horse racing industry.
“Kentucky can’t afford to fall behind our neighboring states who are moving forward with the rest of the country on expanded gaming,” Beshear said to Latek. “We lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars a year. As governor, I will work to legalize sports betting, casinos, fantasy sports and prepare for online poker, and use the revenue from these activities as a dedicated funding stream for our public pension system.”
The incumbent in the race is Republican Matt Bevin, who has run afoul of the online gaming industry in the past and would seemingly fight against any incursion or expansion of gaming in general. He comes up with a ludicrous statement that, “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.” He also questions the studies that have been commissioned as to the amount of money that expanded gaming would bring in, saying that the proposed hundreds of millions of dollars “are not serious solutions.”
With the elections in Kentucky looming in just a few weeks, the polls are tough to read. Polling in June had Bevin with a six-point lead, but it only covered 741 voters, meaning there could be potential for a large swing in error rate. There is also a huge disparity between the sexes and their choices – women are leaning to Beshear (47-40) but men favor Bevin (57-37).