Losing Gamble

In 1987, the Kentucky Democratic primary for governor included two men who had previously held the post (Julian Carroll and John Y. Brown Jr.), the incumbent Lieutenant Governor (Steve Beshear), and Gov. Martha Layne Collins’ cabinet secretary (Grady Stumbo).

Wallace Wilkinson, then an unknown, entered the race with a political consultant who at the time was also not a household name—James Carville. Wilkinson’s campaign focused on a single issue, one that had been floated during legislative sessions in the state with mixed support. But, pumping millions of his own money into his campaign, Wilkinson, with Carville’s help, put together an ad campaign that proposed a state lottery, and Wilkinson closed a gap in the final days of the campaign to win the race in stunning fashion.

Obviously, Beshear remembers that time well, because 20 years later he focused his campaign for governor primarily on one issue—casinos. Beshear’s 19-point margin of victory over incumbent Gov. Ernie Fletcher was a clear mandate that the citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky wanted the opportunity to vote on the issue as a constitutional amendment.

Wilkinson did what those who elected him requested—he championed the cause, as a bill authorizing the vote on a constitutional amendment passed in the 1988 legislative session. Three weeks later, a special session passed the enabling legislation. In November, 60% of those who cast ballots voted to approve the lottery, and the first tickets were sold April 4, 1989; first-week sales generated $27 million.

Since that time, hundreds of millions have poured into state coffers because Kentuckians have been able to play the lottery within the state’s borders.

Kentuckians have made their feelings known that they also want to be able to play a slot machine without traveling to Indiana to do so. Each day, cars with Kentucky license plates cross into Indiana to spend money at casinos, dollars that should remain in the state to help purses and fund state programs.

The horse industry heavily backed Beshear and heard him repeatedly say he would work hard to get a constitutional amendment on casinos passed. (Full Disclosure: This writer was among those who contributed to the Beshear/Mongiardo ticket.) But alas, another legislative session has passed with the state’s signature industry left yet again to agonize over why it cannot garner needed help from its elected officials.

Beshear and his advisers completely fumbled the ball, coming out late with a bill and having no true support from legislative leaders. But Beshear should not take all the blame. House Speaker Jody Richards also performed miserably, the perception by many being that he was not even for the bill.

Wallace Wilkinson did what the voters asked him to do. Steve Beshear did not. Wilkinson helped bring in revenue when facing a budget deficit. Now, the deficit is much larger, yet Beshear has done nothing.

“The bill is dead,” Beshear said March 27. So, too, is the governor’s support from the horse industry.

LESS AUTHORITY

There was more bad news when it became known the budget for the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority might be slashed as state legislators grappled with a budget bill containing drastic cuts and no new revenue streams.

Past assessments to the state’s four Thoroughbred tracks—based on handle and number of days raced—which were suspended during the Fletcher administration, may be reinstated. But Senate President David Williams is pushing to exempt the state’s two smaller tracks, Ellis and Turfway.

It costs the same to oversee a day of racing at Ellis Park as Churchill Downs, at Turfway Park as Keeneland, and everyone should help foot the bill of the regulatory agency’s expenses.

Less staff means less oversight, and less oversight means an open invitation to cheaters.

Not a good week in Kentucky.

17 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Go for broke

Congratulations. You've given the GOP a set of talking points on Steve Beshear.

feeds.feedburner.com/.../the-blood-horse.html

01 Apr 2008 3:11 PM
Seriously

How much does Jones contribute to this publication? This story and the one publihed earlier should be called "advertorials" with a notation that Jones and KEEP paid the tab to get this nonsense published.

Bloodhorse is better than this. Examine all the facts. Ask others for their comments; does Tracy Farmer subscribe to this diatribe that Jones is peddling? I'd be surprised if he does.

Jones did not help the process at all. In fact, there are many who would say it was he and not the governor who stood in the way of the casino legislation getting to the House in a timely fashion. Dan, do your readers a real service and report ALL of the facts. This isn't it.

01 Apr 2008 9:51 PM
Ed Ashcraft

So, what has been published isn't the truth.  What is?  Please share it.  It was Brashear's idea to wait until after the candidate filing deadline to file the bill.  Anytime a governor with a fresh election mandate can't get his bill passed the fault is his.  Any legislative body that will ignore the will of the people to vote on an issue doesn't deserve to hold office.  It's kind of puzzling when interests from out of state have more influence on the legislators than their own constituents.  I found it quite strange that a casino owner in the process of seeking a buyer for an Indiana casino he owns inserted him so forcefully into the process.  I read today that he got a buyer for the Indiana casino.  Would that sale have happened if the expanded gaming bill had passed in Kentucky?  It just gets curiouser and curiouser.

01 Apr 2008 10:35 PM
terry

yes, and apparently our new governor also feels he can contribute the the general economy but raiding the nursing licensure fees too. He is after half of every nurses license renewal fees for general purposes. Maybe someone should remind him there is a critical national nursing shortage and the nurses can cross the borders along with the gamblers!

02 Apr 2008 3:49 AM
Michael

The former governor assured everyone he knew what he was doing re casinos and Beshear and KEEP and others bought it hook line and sinker. Now he's doing a CYA job and to do that is using the Bloodhorse, where he is a big advertiser.

02 Apr 2008 8:24 AM
BS

I am just an "average" Kentucky resident who sees things a little differently.I'm not sure if Beshear's victory was a mandate for casinos or just an opportunity to get Fletcher out of office. If there was "no true support from legislative leaders" MAYBE it was because the majority of their electorates did not support casinos all over the state as was being talked about. If the voters wanted an opportunity to vote MAYBE it was to vote down proposed casinos and the problems they bring with them. In my opinion there is a vast difference between Lotteries and Casinos. MAYBE the mistake was that the racing industry had tunnel vision (and hearing) by focusing only on what they wanted to hear and not what the general population of the state was saying.

02 Apr 2008 9:42 AM
EZEVANS

I understand the frustration that is felt..as a Maryland resident I have watched what was once a great racing state roll over and die as we continue to give our money away to the neighboring states. Casinos/on track gambling won't necessarily revive public interest in the sport but it will help support those whose income comes from within the racing industry.

02 Apr 2008 2:44 PM
Jim Anderson Stivers

Was it a wrong signal that developed, while the Beshear campaign was put together? Was there over confidence in their ability to deliver on the Casino Issue, Perhaps?

Brer Jones, IMO, was over confident in his ability to persuade. Since the issue had been aired, many times before,the previous exposure of the Casino Issue helped citizens to understand the social cost of Casinos. And the Evangelical opposition was pretty strong.

Horses and Horse racing our the ICON of our state, and it is too bad KEEP decided to tak the casino route, than some alternative to an increase in some tax, to shore up the Horse and track industry.

If Steve Beshear pushes this issue again, it will surely lead to a one term Governor.

02 Apr 2008 4:05 PM
Jim Anderson Stivers

Was it a wrong signal that developed, while the Beshear campaign was put together? Was there over confidence in their ability to deliver on the Casino Issue, Perhaps?

Brer Jones, IMO, was over confident in his ability to persuade. Since the issue had been aired, many times before,the previous exposure of the Casino Issue helped citizens to understand the social cost of Casinos. And the Evangelical opposition was pretty strong.

Horses and Horse racing our the ICON of our state, and it is too bad KEEP decided to tak the casino route, than some alternative to an increase in some tax, to shore up the Horse and track industry.

If Steve Beshear pushes this issue again, it will surely lead to a one term Governor.

02 Apr 2008 4:05 PM
Jim Anderson Stivers

It is probably true the supporters and backers of Steve Beshear misread the mandate. Very little was about Steve Beshear, and Ernie Fletcher has already educated a part of the public to the down side of casinos.

02 Apr 2008 4:09 PM
Bellwether

try promoting the sport for a change...

03 Apr 2008 12:28 AM
Observer

As state funds are now tight,money for KHRA should be examined.  That agency has continued to grow beyond necessity and become a typical bureaucracy. One example, the new, cumbersome requirements to RENEW an owner's licence.  The Board lacks any element of leadership or initiative.  The staff, not the Board, is in charge.  That is not the way it should be.

Fletcher dumped the Board and installed the current hacks.  Beshear has not shown any interest in putting in new people.  Maybe that betrays the fact he has no real interest in racing, the major part of our signature industry.

03 Apr 2008 12:38 PM
Darrell Nugent

It all boils down to nobody in Franfort has any guts ! let the people vote on the casinos, we have Bingo all over the state, some churches have it 3 nights a week, but yet some of those people are against casinos ! makes no sense to me. But yet those in Franfort continue to spend our money and bankrupt the state.

If you really want to hear people complain , then lets tax Bingo !

03 Apr 2008 1:09 PM
Robert Fasching

I will still never understand how the citizens of a state losing their hard earned money at a casino is a good idea.

I know that some politicians say that they are losing it anyway in neighboring states but that still doesn't make it the right thing to do.

04 Apr 2008 2:44 PM
Fred

I am tired of hearing governments spending more and taxing more.  Then the idea of slots to raise more tax money to save more government spending. Government taxes 25% of the pool.  Then they tax 25% of th owners winnings a pool or race.  Then the government taxes gas, real estate, tack, personal income, etc. the government is a out of hand.

The situation is two fold. First,governments are set up to fail.  They spend money inefficiently so as to take tax dollars and spend unwisely. The consumer is the one who spends their tax dollar as efficiently as possible.  Governments need to get out of the help the consumer business.

Second, slots are not the answer to more tax revenues.  In Delaware, they still have government spending issues. Delaware has slots.  The real issue is that the horse players are treated horribly when they go to the track or off track betting.  I know. I feel horrible the way the track personnel treat me.  I feel even worse when I go to an off track betting facility.  More specifically,  the stewards are making horrible calls on objections.  Especially in California. Eveyone needs to improve the horse racing business.  Including myself.  I will try to quit cursing at the stewards for the horrible calls they make.

09 Apr 2008 12:39 PM
Whitney

Could be worse.  Y'all could be in Ohio.

10 Apr 2008 10:53 AM
Bellwether

with all the bread @ stake would anyone xpect it to be easy & honest...keep a eye on Maryland leading up to its vote on SLOTS as there is a lot @ stake there...

11 Apr 2008 1:36 AM

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