A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Dave Spaulding: It’s time to stop blocking gaming; at least, pass sports wagering; tell your legislator


Kentucky has a long history of gambling. Horses are part of our culture. We have a billion-dollar lottery and bingo at our churches. In Northern Kentucky and Louisville, we have casinos minutes from our homes, and there is now a casino within 30 minutes of Paducah (Western Kentucky) and Ashland (Eastern Kentucky). States that surround Kentucky are raking in millions each year off gambling revenue to benefit their schools, local governments, and tourism efforts.
 
So why has Kentucky been unable to get casino gaming passed at the state level? Because there aren’t enough votes statewide to get it passed.

Dave Spaulding

Rural Kentucky legislators have been blocking casino gaming for years on religious grounds. All the while church festivals offer pull tabs and bingo to their worshipers to pay their debts. From our perspective, they might as well be working for the Ohio and Indiana casinos. Their efforts are blocking additional revenue for our Commonwealth. Nobody looking at the issue honestly can claim they are curbing gambling by Kentuckians. 

When they make the argument that gambling is evil, ask them why they aren’t trying to get rid of horse tracks or the lottery? Ask them if they’ve recently counted the number of Kentucky license plates at the casinos bordering our state, which on any given day range from 30%-50%.
 
The point is, they aren’t protecting Kentuckians from anything.

They’re only costing us badly needed revenue. If they truly care about Kentucky families, why not allow us to use some of that revenue for our schools and pensions?

And if they are still a “No” when it comes to casinos overall, why not at least let us have sports wagering?

One of our NKY legislators, Adam Koenig, has introduced a bill to legalize sports gaming in our state. This is something you can already do legally in Indiana and West Virginia. Ohio and Tennessee are considering a similar bill now, and it is likely to pass.
 
Rep. Koenig’s passed unanimously out of house committee and will be coming up for a full vote in the house.

Sports wagering won’t bring in new casinos, and frankly, won’t bring in a ton of revenue to the state, but it is better than nothing.  It will complement our horse tracks and increase the purses to help ensure Kentucky racing remains healthy.

Rep. Adam Koenig


Our new Governor is in favor of it, as are business and civic leaders throughout the state. Educators, retired state employees, firefighters, police unions and the tourism industry have all pledged their support behind the legalization of sports wagering to help fund our aligning pension system.
 
Senator Damon Thayer, the Kentucky Senate Majority Floor Leader, recently shared, “I’m 100 percent in favor of sports wagering. We already have legalized gaming. It’s just an extension of our history and culture here. I think it will bring in new customers and some new revenue, which we can use for the pension system.”

Unfortunately, there is still opposition to the bill.

We are hearing that there may even be NKY legislators that aren’t in support. That would be troubling indeed, as a vast majority of their constituents are in favor and would be very surprised to learn their views aren’t being represented.

If you were to ask residents in Florence, Covington, and Fort Thomas, (Northern Kentucky’s largest cities in Boone, Kenton and Campbell County by population), you would find that most believe gaming and sports wagering in particular, are a no brainer.

As a general rule, when our Northern Kentucky legislative caucus stands united on an issue, legislation generally passes. We hope and expect our caucus will stand united in favor of sports wagering.

Rest assured, the NKY business community will be informing everyone how people vote on this issue. 

That is one thing you can bet on. 

Dave Spaulding is a resident of Fort Mitchell ad chairman of the NKY Chamber Business Advocacy Council. 


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One Comment

  1. Pamela Valz says:

    I grew up in Northern Kentucky. I watched as some of our local tracks fell on hard times when gaming opened in Indiana and then Ohio. I just do not get it! Saying Kentucky can have horse race betting, lottery, bingo etc and not have sports waging or full on casinos is like telling a bar they can have vodka but not gin! It truly makes no logical sense. I happen to now work in gaming and can tell you that the reputation that gaming somehow leads to sinful behavior is unfounded. Our average guest is 55 years old and sees gambling as adult entertainment. The revenue this could generate for schools and public programs in Kentucky well out weighs any religious position.

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