Kentucky Looks to Casino Gaming for State Budget Needs

by Jim Hall

KentuckyLawmakers in Kentucky are reviewing casino gaming in order to meet budget needs.

Many states across the US use casino gaming as a way to bring in much-needed funds to meet budget shortfalls. Casinos can bring in tens of millions each year and every state that offers such gaming, uses the money generated from taxes and/or fees to fund programs, education, etc. within their borders. Lawmakers in Kentucky are hoping that everyone will get on board with casino gaming for their state, in order to meet a huge budget shortfall, generating revenue in a new way.

Supporting Casino Gaming

Last week, a press conference was held at the State Capitol Annex in Frankfort as supporters of casino gaming legalization came together to try and pitch ideas. Supporters feel that last year’s efforts can be refocused in 2018 and see the state finally pass legislation to allow casinos to be constructed.

A constitutional amendment has been proposed for the state that would legalize casino gaming, and it needs support. Representative Jerry Miller, stated during the recent event that it is going to take individuals in the state contacting legislators and saying they want gaming because the state needs more revenue. Miller feels the idea to add casino gaming is ‘more palatable than a tax increase’. Senator Morgan McGarvey also commented that the state is at a point now where the budget looks bleak and help is needed.

Both the senator and rep know that the odds are stacked against them when it comes to seeing casino gaming become a reality in Kentucky. Governor Matt Bevin has continued to argue that the proposal for casinos is a sucker’s bet as there are societal costs. The governor plans on proposing a tax reform measure that will work on the revenue problem, either during this session or in a special session later on in the year.

Opponents of casino legalization feel that hate measure will fail again this year as it has in the past. Opponents tend to feel that there are other methods that can be used without the social costs they feel are associated with gambling.

House Bill 229

Last week, Miller decided to file House Bill 229 which would amend the constitution and allow casino gaming to be legalized in the state. The goal of the bill is to allocate the first 20 years of money provided to the state by the new industry to go towards public pension systems, which are currently suffering. According to Miller, this would free up tax dollars that now go towards pensions to go towards other items in the budget.

Estimates by the lawmakers in support of the measure show that as much as $250 million or more will be generated each year from gaming for the pension systems. Since the measure is an amendment of the constitution, it will have to receive 3/5 of the vote within the House and Senate. This means 60 of the 100 member House and 23 of the 38 Senators must be in approval. The governor cannot veto an amendment to the constitution, so the measure would move on to the ballot this November if approved to then be considered by voters.

So now the bill must gain enough support on the House and Senate in order to move forward. It is still unclear as to if there is enough support within the state’s Legislature to see the bill move on to the ballot this fall. However, there were several lawmakers on hand during the press conference last week, already throwing their support behind the measure.