Kentucky Republicans Say Odds Long Casino Effort Will Prevail, Gaming Key Topic in Gubernatorial Campaign

Posted on: October 18, 2019, 11:03h. 

Last updated on: October 18, 2019, 11:24h.

Two Kentucky Senate Republicans are warning Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear that his effort to legalize casinos won’t succeed.

Kentucky casinos Andy Beshear
Andy Beshear (right) wants casinos in Kentucky. His gubernatorial opponent, Gov. Matt Bevin (left), does not. (Image: Michael Clevenger/Courier Journal)

Senate President Robert Stivers and Majority Leader Damon Thayer – both Republicans in the GOP-controlled upper chamber of the Kentucky General Assembly – say Beshear’s wishes to bring commercial gambling to the Bluegrass State won’t prevail.

“Recently, Andy Beshear has advanced the notion of legalizing land-based casino gambling in our state. This proposal has been sold to the people of Kentucky as a panacea for the Commonwealth’s financial concerns,” a joint statement from Stivers and Thayer said.

We want to be abundantly clear, there is absolutely no chance any such effort would pass the Senate in an upcoming season. Any bill proposing casino gambling would be dead on arrival,” the Republicans declared.

Stivers and Thayer said the tax revenue and economic benefits of authorizing commercial gambling have been drastically overstated, and casinos won’t be able to fix the state’s pension crisis or increase teacher pay.

Beshear is challenging incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin for the state’s highest office.

GOP Flip-Flop

Beshear is currently his state’s attorney general. He’s the son of former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D), who served two terms from 2007 to 2015.

Beshear the elder repeatedly backed efforts to legalize commercial gambling. In 2012, a push was made by a group called The Kentucky Alliance for Jobs to put a ballot question before voters that, if passed, would have ended the state’s gambling prohibition.

Beshear lent his endorsement to the issue, saying casinos would help generate revenue and new jobs. Thayer embraced gambling, too.

“Governor Beshear and I have the same goal: to get this issue on the ballot … and to preserve and protect Kentucky’s racing and breeding industry. We pledged to work together in a good-faith effort to get this passed,” Thayer commented at the time.

The 2012 effort ultimately failed, as the Kentucky Senate voted 21-16 against the referendum to keep the question off the ballot.

Fast-forward seven years, and Thayer says “the ship has sailed” on casinos. He explained this week that his previous support was to help Kentucky’s horsemen. But today, the state is home to historical racing machines – slot-like devices – that are providing revenue to the tracks.

Gaming Showdown

Bevin opposes casino gambling, calling it “fool’s gold.”

Online political betting exchange PredictIt has Bevin the heavy favorite to win in November. His shares are trading at 70 cents. Pollsters believe it will be much closer.

A poll released this week on the Kentucky gubernatorial outcome – conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling – has the race dead even at 46 percent each. In December, Beshear held an eight-point lead over the Republican.

Pollsters believe the impeachment probe in Washington against President Donald Trump is helping rebound Bevin’s campaign. The president remains popular in Kentucky, and voters there overwhelmingly supported him in 2016.

Trump won 62.5 percent of the 2016 presidential vote in Kentucky. The only states that more strongly supported him were Alabama (62.9 percent), North Dakota (64.1 percent), Oklahoma (65.3 percent), West Virginia (68.7 percent), and Wyoming (70.1 percent).