Kentucky AG Calls on Lawmakers to Legalize Casinos, Says Gaming Revenue Can Fix Broken Pension System

Posted on: November 28, 2018, 08:38h. 

Last updated on: November 28, 2018, 08:38h.

Kentucky Attorney General and 2019 gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear (D) believes the legalization of commercial casinos can help fund the state’s pension system.

Kentucky pension Andy Beshear casino
Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear says it’s time to stop gaming dollars from flowing into nearby states. (Image: Kat Russell/AP)

Beshear, whose father Steve served two terms as Kentucky governor between 2007 and 2015 and also wanted to bring gambling to the Bluegrass State, says authorizing casinos and earmarking subsequent tax revenue for the pension system is a win-win. The gubernatorial candidate says the current retirement system faces billions of dollars of unfunded liabilities in the years ahead.

“The solution is not to cut legally promised benefits, but to create a new and dedicated stream of revenue solely for pensions that does not raise any Kentuckian’s taxes,” Beshear wrote to the General Assembly. “The answer is simple – expanded gaming including casino, fantasy sports, and sports gaming, as well as preparing for the eventual legalization of online poker.”

Kentucky is the prominent home of horse racing, but remains one of just 10 states that doesn’t have commercial or tribal casinos. It’s worth noting that there are no federally recognized Native American groups in the state.

Beshear points to estimates that reason Kentucky could take in $546 million in annual tax revenue from gaming.

Changing Attitudes

The US Supreme Court struck down the federal sports betting ban known as PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) in May. The landmark decision gave states the power to determine their own laws regarding the gambling activity.

Expanded sports betting has additionally seemed to ease opinions on gambling in traditionally conservative states. Virginia, for example, one of the 10 states with Kentucky without a casino, is mulling ending gaming prohibition.

Though Virginia voted Democrat in the last three presidential elections, prior to that it hadn’t since 1964. Northern Virginia’s growing liberal population is mixing the state’s politics with the conservative south.

Gaming industry lobbyists are lining up in Virginia, as the state is expected to consider both sports betting and casino bills in 2019. Beshear doesn’t want Kentucky left out of the game.

As you are aware, our neighbors … have all legalized casino gaming. Estimates suggest Kentuckians spend over $1 billion of their entertainment dollars in these states,” the attorney general said.

“We are missing out on our share of these revenues. We cannot afford to continue to make this mistake,” Beshear concluded.

Beshear Suing State

Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed a pension bill that removes newly hired teachers from the current retirement system and instead places them into a hybrid plan that features a pension and 401(k) combination. Governor Matt Bevin (R) signed the measure.

State lawmakers say the legislation wipes tens of billions of dollars in future liabilities from the pension program. Beshear, the Kentucky Education Association, and Fraternal Order of Police jointly filed a lawsuit on grounds that the bill violates the state’s legal contract with public employees.

The Kentucky Supreme Court is set to soon review the matter.