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Democratic Lawmakers Bet On Gaming To Fund Pensions

AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Slot machines in the casino are seen during a preview tour of the MGM National Harbor, Friday, Dec. 2, 2016 in Oxon Hill, Md.

Two Democratic state lawmakers are looking to casinos to help pay down Kentucky’s massive pension liabilities, but the plan is unlikely to gain a foothold in the General Assembly.

Reps. Dennis Keene and Rick Rand have prefiled Bill Request 149, calling on the state to expand gambling with an eye toward raising up to $500 million in new revenue over the state’s two-year budget period. In a press statement, the Democrats argue Kentucky is forfeiting tax dollars by allowing surrounding states to reap the benefits of legalized gambling.

Under the legislation, horse racing tracks could host limited casino gaming.

But the idea is already meeting with a cool reception in the Republican-controlled Capital. Reacting to the legislation, Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer tweeted simply, “Nope.” And Gov. Matt Bevin recently told WUKY the chances are slim.

"We've previously had people who ran for the seat of governor with that as their primary driver when they had party of like affiliation who couldn't get that task done," he said. "There's less appetite even now than there was then."

Former Gov. Steve Beshear made the issue a pillar of his campaign.

In an interview with WHAS radio, Bevin said the financial benefits of expanded gaming would not offset the “societal costs.”

Even if the bill found its way out of the General Assembly and past the governor’s desk, full passage would require a constitutional amendment to be voted on at the ballot box.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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