Kentucky Lawmakers Push for Casinos

kyThe idea of introducing brick and mortar casinos to the state of Kentucky may have sounded ludicrous several years ago, but more and more lawmakers seem to be warming to it these days. True, the Republicans are in total control of the state government, however two lawmakers are pushing for the government to at least consider the option of funding Kentucky’s pension deficit with casino revenue. Northern Kentucky Rep. Dennis Keene (D-Wilder) and Rep. Rick Rand (D-Bedford) joined forces this week to propose a constitutional amendment that would allow Kentucky to legalize casinos.

According to Keene and Rand, a robust casino industry in Kentucky had the potential to generate $325 million in one-time fees, while and estimated $236 million would be brought in as annual revenue.

The money, say the lawmakers would be directed to Kentucky’s pension debt which has reached $40 billion.

“This is the start of the discussion,” Keene was quoted as saying. “I’m refusing to look at that and say ‘You can’t do that.’ At least this is something positive.”

It will be no easy task to get Kentucky lawmakers on board with the idea, especially the Republican Governor Matt Bevin who remains rabidly opposed to casino gambling. Even more so that no success was had when the Democrats ruled the roost under Governor Steve Beshear.

However, numbers talk and the Republicans in Kentucky cannot ignore the fact that they are facing deep problems with their pension funds (or lack of).  Rep. Keene said that the Republicans would need to at least consider the idea of introducing casinos to Kentucky.

“That’s their prerogative if they want to dig their heads in the sand and not look for revenue sources,” he said.

Under the bill introduced by Keene and Rand, a regulated casino industry in Kentucky would look like this

  • Kentucky residents would need to vote on the question in the next November elections.
  • A local referendum would need to be held before a casino could be built in any location.
  • Up to four casinos would be approved as free-standing sites.
  • Casinos would also be approved at six race tracks in the state.
  • Any future casinos would be regulated by the Kentucky Lottery Corporation.
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