Kentucky Legislators Propose Casino Gambling Measure

by Jim Hall

Two legislators in Kentucky are proposing the state legalize casino gambling.

Across the United States, the gambling landscape is changing. It seems more and more states are becoming interested in offering gambling in some form of fashion. Pennsylvania is looking at expanding into online gaming and other areas while New Jersey is still fighting for sports betting rights. In Kentucky, two legislators of the House want to see their state enter the gambling industry by constructing casinos. Two democrats, Representatives Dennis Keane and Rick Rand, are proposing legislation to see the state get in on the casino action.

Show Me The Money

Representative Dennis KeeneKeane and Rand want to see Kentucky become involved in casino gaming to bring in much-needed funds for the state. Legalized gambling would bring in money that could be used for the public pension systems that remains underfunded by the billions. As the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Keene would like to see the state add casinos because other neighboring states are profiting from their residents. Casinos are currently located along the state border and residents are crossing state lines to spend their money that could otherwise by used by the state.

Keene pointed out that lottery gambling in Kentucky is very successful. If the state were to expand the existing gaming venues to offer casino style games, a new revenue source would be provided that could be used to beef up the pension shortfall.

Representative Rick RandRick Rand is the former chairman of the Budget Committee who stated that once casino gambling was fully operational, tax revenues from gaming could reach the half a billion dollar mark in just a two year time frame. Casinos would have to pay initial licensing fees which could bring about around $325 million. Then, annual payments would have to be made by license holders which could reach as much as $236 million each year. Rand feels this would be a step in the right direction to help decrease the shortfall within the pension.

What Could Happen

Both representatives have stated that without a revenue stream designated for the public pension, retirees will have to shoulder more of the burden. Keene said that before cuts are made to retirees’ benefits, there is opportunity to bring in new revenue to help the fund. The goal is to basically bring in new money that can be used for the fund before cuts have to be made.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the pension system, experienced employees in the field of teaching, police and workers for the state and country are leaving in order to avoid any issues with their retirement. Rand wants to see the issue placed on the ballot so the residents of Kentucky can decide what they want to see offered in their state.

With the proposed legislation, a constitutional amendment would need to be approved by the voters. The Kentucky Lottery Corporation would be in charge of expanded gaming in the state including administering and overseeing the new industry. Casinos would be allowed to have four free-standing locations. The location of such venues would need to be approved locally via an election. Horse racing tracks that offer pari-mutual betting would also have the ability to be approved for casino gaming.

There is a big legislative battle ahead if this bill can even move forward for consideration. When the democrats held the House, casino legislation was unable to move forward. Governor Matt Bevin does have plans to discuss pension reform next week but has said that a gambling expansion will most likely not be part of the solution.