Democratic gubernatorial challenger Andy Beshear is hoping to win the office by, among other ways, rolling the dice in support of expanded gaming -- including legalizing casinos and sports wagering. With the issue likely to come up during next year's General Assembly session, many believe that how far the topic advances in the legislature depends on who wins November's general election.
Beshear, who supports expanded gaming as a way to provide a steady funding stream for public pensions, believes the state can't afford to fall behind neighboring states and the rest of the country.
"We lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars a year," he said, adding that he would work to legalize sports betting, casinos, fantasy sports and prepare for online poker.
The issue was initially broached by Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, who sponsored a bill to make sports wagering legal during this year's regular session. Though the bill didn't receive a committee hearing in the Senate, Carroll has said he is proposing similar legislation in 2020.
Two other state representatives -- Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, and Al Gentry, D-Louisville -- have also sponsored expanded gaming bills, with a cut of the proceeds funding the pension system.
Republican incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin has remained staunchly opposed to the idea, citing the societal cost.
"Every night, somewhere in America, somebody takes their life in a casino because they've wasted the last semblance of dignity and hope that they had," he said. "Families are ruined, lives are ruined."
Bevin also said that the amount of money raised from expanded gaming wouldn't be a magic pill for the public pension system and that it is not a viable solution.
Is expanded gaming the issue that makes or breaks the election for Bevin and Beshear? Probably not, but with both candidates in opposite corners, it is shaping up to be an important one in voters' choice of Kentucky's chief executive for the next four years.