Online Poker Remains in Kentucky Gubernatorial Debates
It’s rare for online poker to be at the top of anyone’s political platforms these days.
Online gambling – focusing mainly on casino games – is the revenue generator, as proven monthly by New Jersey. But most politicians aren’t campaigning on that, either. Few candidates for government offices want to mention anything about gambling, with the possible exception of sports betting.
Enter Andy Beshear.
Currently serving as the attorney general of Kentucky, he is now running to be the state’s governor. And a one of the issues on which he has campaigned is the expansion of gambling for Kentuckians. He supports casinos, fantasy sports, sports betting, and preparations for online poker.
Yes, he is the same Beshear whose father – former Governor Steve Beshear – ordered 141 online gambling domains seized in 2008 and fought online gambling operators as “leeches on our communities” and part of the “underworld.”
Looks like Beshear's attempt to block domains was shot down in appeals court. Thanks gov for making KY look even dumber. Embarrassing.
— Connor Sears (@connors) January 21, 2009
Gambling Front and Center
AG Beshear has been debating his Republican challenge for the upcoming election, Matt Bevin, for months in the media and through campaign statements.
At the beginning of October, Beshear and Bevin met for their first official debate. The Paducah event put them on the spot to talk about a range of issues. And several of those issues seemed to bring the discussion back to gambling.
When debating how to bring more jobs – and better paying jobs – to Kentucky, Beshear said legalized gambling will help with that.
The issue of fixing the state pension system, gambling was Beshear’s answer.
Pensions for the state’s teachers have been in danger of being underfunded for several years. Kentucky actually ranks highest of all 50 states in public pension funding gaps. Beshear feels that legalized gambling is a solution, with the revenue going directly to the pension fund.
Beshear didn’t back away from his statements in the debate.
“It’s time for casino gaming. It’s time to treat fantasy sports for what they are. It’s time for sports betting, and we need to prepare for online poker, which is coming,” he said.
Clear Gambling Platform
Beshear expanded on his gambling ideas in an interview with the Courier-Journal.
“We can generate hundreds of millions of dollars from sports betting, fantasy sports, casino gaming, and online poker,” he said. He also adds that closing a loophole for sales taxes on luxury items will bring in additional revenue. Beshear also supports legalizing medical marijuana.
The same article also noted that Libertarian candidate John Hicks does not differ much from Beshear’s gambling stance, only noting that expanding gambling should be done “carefully.”
Hicks clarified, “I also support expanding gambling, provided we do not create monopolies by doing so.”
Expanded Gambling Details
On Beshear’s campaign website, he dedicated an entire section to the issue of expanded gaming.
“Kentucky can’t afford to fall behind our neighboring states who are moving forward with the rest of the country on expanded gaming,” it reads. “We lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars per year.”
He committed to directing 100% of the tax revenue from the new gambling industry to fund the pension system for public servants, such as teachers and first responders.
Beshear added some numbers to show the benefits of expanded gaming. He obtained the figures from the American Gaming Association and Spectrum Gaming Group studies.
The section of the site claims that Kentucky loses more than $500 million in annual tax revenue, money that goes to neighboring states. If Kentucky allowed even fewer than 10 casinos in the state, it could generate more than $1.7 billion in the first year alone.
Of course, Beshear pointed out that a new gambling industry will also create jobs and attract more tourism. Kentucky would also become competitive with neighboring states for gambling revenue and subsequent economic opportunities.
He also addressed responsible gambling in his position paper. He plans to work closely with nonprofits and other resources to address addiction and ensure that proper treatment centers are available.
All casinos and gambling facilities will “dedicate a percentage of their net profits to funding treatment resources.”
In addition, the Kentucky Cabinet of Health and Family Services will conduct annual evaluations of gambling addiction and responsible gambling efforts to ensure a sufficient response to the needs of Kentuckians.
Election Approaching Quickly
The 2019 elections will take place on Tuesday, November 5.
It is an off-year election, meaning most races are state-focused.
In Kentucky, Bevin is seeking reelection after serving one term as the state’s governor, but Beshear is a strong candidate. Even so, the state typically leans Republican for all major elections.
Real Clear Politics shows several polls with mixed results.
–December 2018 Mason-Dixon poll: Beshear 48% to Bevin 40%
–June 2018 Gravis poll: Bevin 48% to Beshear 42%
–October 2018 Mason-Dixon poll: Beshear and Bevin tied at 46% each
Leaders of the Kentucky Senate say there's no way they would consider Andy Beshear's proposal to legalize casino gambling to bring in more state revenue if he becomes governor. pic.twitter.com/RLxSScqtAU
— Ryland Barton (@RylandKY) October 17, 2019
Beshear campaign manager Eric Hyers responds to GOP legislative leaders who say Beshear's gambling proposal would be DOA:
"Andy will work across the aisle to get this done, regardless of the political rhetoric that gets thrown out during the final days of a political campaign"
— Ryland Barton (@RylandKY) October 17, 2019