Gambling Expert: Casinos Will Hurt State

The following is an excerpt of a blog written by Ivan Zabilka*, an expert on the gambling industry’s efforts to bring casinos in Kentucky. It originally appeared on his blog, The Gambling Notepad.

Historically casino proponents in Kentucky have resorted to distorting polls and working up biased reports… A former governor, Julian Carroll, once famously offered $151 million up front money in what he called “an offer the legislature can’t refuse.”

Our current governor says the only fair way to address the issue is through a constitutional amendment. This sounds very democratic, but opens the door for whoever has the most advertising dollars to win. Look for TV ads, radio spots, and slick brochures and booklets delivered to every door.

There are many basic issues. The governor says hundreds of millions are going over the river, yet Indiana says it only receives somewhat over $235 million from Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois. Falsification? Another issue revolves around the question of whether the courts will uphold the legality of an amendment that grants an economic monopoly to only the horse industry. A third issue is whether the casinos will actually enrich the state. The talk is about where to put the money. Has anyone considered using it to reduce the deficit which seems to appear and disappear depending on what is favorable to the Governor’s current political issue.

Yet another item of interest will be the leverage applied to legislators. Will the leaders again indicate that construction funds will only go to those who vote for the amendment. And finally, do you really think a revenue windfall from the casinos will reduce your taxes? Consider where the money comes from, namely, the pockets of citizens. Will additional welfare needs, increased police, judicial, and incarceration costs reduce your taxes? Are you really ready to consign 2 percent of your neighbors to the disaster of addiction, and another 4 percent to a lifetime of problems with gambling? All so the legislators can spend the money on new initiatives?

Think before you vote.

Two bills are currently pre-filed. A tandem of House bills, HB 45 and HB 46, provide for a local vote in the counties with a horse track. House Bill 140 is similar. Both bills can be read on the legislative website. Neither of these bills mentions a constitutional amendment, so my guess is they will be buried in committee and will go nowhere. The governor’s entry has not appeared and will not before the redistricting and budget issues are resolved, at least in part.

“Bad” news (for the casino effort) continues to come for the tracks: attendance, purses and betting were all up (year over year )in December nationwide, but especially at Turfway. Now the January horse sales look like they will be on an uptick. Hard to sell poverty when you are making money.

* Ivan Zabilka, is a retired educator and historian. He was a teacher and administrator at both the secondary and collegiate levels for 44 years. He has two theological degrees (M.Div. and Th.M.) from Asbury Theological Seminary and two degrees in U. S. History (M.A. and Ph.D.) from the University of Kentucky, with a specialty in the history of science. He has been an active opponent of gambling expansion since 1992 when he personally saw in his classroom the damage caused by gambling. He has three published books and numerous published articles in both history and about gambling. He is currently president of Citizens Against Gambling Expansion (KY), a board member of The Kentucky League on Alcohol and Gambling Problems, a founding member of Citizens Against Gambling Expansion (CAGE), and a research consultant with The Family Foundation of Kentucky. He is listed in Who’s Who in American Education and in Who’s Who in America.

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