Kentucky Governor Makes Claim About Casino Suicides, Gets Refuted by Advocates Who Support Problem Gamblers

Posted on: July 31, 2019, 04:45h. 

Last updated on: July 31, 2019, 07:19h.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a fierce critic of expanded gaming, once again lashed out on the topic during a radio interview Wednesday, when he claimed people kill themselves daily in casinos nationwide.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, shown here taking a selfie with high school students and US Rep Hal Rogers (second right), spoke out against expanded gaming in the state Wednesday. He claimed somewhere in the US a person commits suicide in a casino every day. (Image: Gov. Matt Bevin)

The issue came up when Bevin called in for an interview on News Edge, a show on WKDZ-FM in Cadiz, Ky. A Republican, Bevin seeks re-election this year and faces current state Attorney General Andy Beshear, the Democratic nominee, in the November election.

One of the biggest issues in the campaign is the underfunding of its pension plans for public employees. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, the shortfall totaled $43.4 billion in 2016, and it had a funding ratio of just 31.4 percent.

Beshear has said he supports legalizing sports betting, casinos, and fantasy sports to help fill in the shortage. It’s similar to an effort approved by Illinois lawmakers earlier this year to shore up its woeful pension plan.

On Thursday, Bevin again scoffed at the notion, saying it would take hundreds of years for expanded gaming to shore up the pension plan. Then, he zeroed in on what he called the “societal costs” of gambling.

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 claimed.

While Kentucky is one of seven states that do not offer casino gaming, the state allows charitable gaming, runs a lottery, and serves a major player in the horse racing industry.

After trying for years to get expanded gaming in the state, the racing industry has now focused on developing historical horse racing (HHR) parlors across the state. HHR machines look like slot machines, but gamblers actually bet on the outcome of a previously run race instead to determine if they win.

No Way to Verify Claim

Groups that support problem gamblers acknowledged to there is a strong correlation between gambling addiction and suicide. However, they could not verify Bevin’s claim.

Michael R. Stone, who serves as the executive director for the Kentucky Council on Problem Gaming said he could only remember one instance where a gambler took their life in the casino in the 20 years he’s been in his position.

We hope the issue of suicide among addicted gamblers is not trivialized by a statement that is not supported in any factual way,” Stone said in an email to “We hope this is helpful.”

Keith Whyte, who serves as the executive director for the National Council on Problem Gaming, told that several studies indicate that about a fifth of people dealing with severe gambling addiction have admitted they’ve made a serious suicide attempt.

“The reports are from those who survived, and we have no way to know how many tragically completed their attempt or what other problems may have been present in their lives,” he said. “Extremely complicated and difficult to research. Improved public funding for problem gambling prevention, education, treatment, research, and recovery is the most ethical and effective way to reduce the social costs of gambling addiction.”

Not Bevin’s First Time

Bevin heads toward the general election as the least-popular governor in the country. That’s according to a survey earlier this year from Morning Consult, which reported only 32 percent of Kentuckians approve of his performance. However, Bevin got into office nearly four years ago thanks to the strong support from the state’s evangelical voters, who like him oppose expanded gaming.

His comments drew sharp criticism from the Kentucky Democratic Party and scores of people on social media. However, it was not the first time he made outlandish claims in public on a controversial subject.

In April 2018, public school teachers held a rally in Frankfort, the state capital, to protest proposed pension reforms. About 40 school districts canceled classes that day, which drew the governor’s ire.

“I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today, a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them,” he told reporters. “I guarantee you somewhere today, a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were left alone because a single parent didn’t have any money to take care of them.”

Last November, when talking with a conservative radio host, he said gun regulation wouldn’t solve mass shootings in America because there’s a “culture of death” in the country.

“It starts with everything from the type of entertainment that we focus on,” said Bevin, according to the Louisville Courier Journal. “What’s the most popular topic that seems to be in every cable television network. Television shows are all about, what? Zombies! I don’t get it …  that’s what we are.”

Two years ago, Bevin told another radio host he’d never support the legalization of marijuana – a plant sometimes deridingly referred to as Kentucky’s number one cash crop – because of what it has done to Colorado.

“There are people overdosing based on ingestion of products that are edibles and things,” he said, according to Insider Louisville. “You have that state being sued by at least two of their border states. You have law enforcement people in emergency rooms being overrun by problems. You have homelessness spiking in that state. It has not been good for that state, and states like us would be wise to look at that and realize that’s a sucker’s bet.”