FRANKFORT -- The Commonwealth Policy Center called on the state legislature to hold hearings on the legality of instant racing machines and asked for public input on expanded gambling today. The move comes on the heels of Attorney General Andy Beshear's public urging of state legislators to legalize casinos and sports betting. It also stems from the announcement by Churchill Downs and Keeneland to open a $150 million development revolving around a casino in the West Kentucky community of Oak Grove.
The proposal will have up to 1,500 instant racing machines which Richard Nelson, executive director of the nonpartisan organization, believes are illegal.
"For years we heard the casino-expansion mantra 'Let the people decide'--the horse industry's efforts to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. That vote never happened," Nelson said. "Today, we have instant-racing casinos in four cities and the people have not decided. Nor has the legislature ever voted to approve any gambling expansion." The state House and Senate have yet to hold a single legislative hearing to determine the legality of instant racing machines or whether their introduction would be good public policy.
Nelson, who was flanked by a dozen state House members, contends that casino gambling undermines sound economic principles: thrift, honesty, personal responsibility, and a work ethic that connects effort with reward.
"Building an economy on casino principles is counterintuitive," Nelson said. "How many financial advisors tell their clients they should take part of the 401k and put it in a slot machine as an investment strategy? If this sounds absurd then why is it not just as ridiculous for us to believe that casinos are a healthy revenue stream for governments to depend upon?"
"The gambling interests see dollar signs and major development. But they're not considering the collateral damage addiction brings to real people," Nelson said. "The business model is based on a lot of people losing. The family whose breadwinner gambled away the week's grocery money. The businesses who've been embezzled by a wayward employee. Adventure-seeking-soldiers stationed at Fort Campbell. And most will end up with a pocket full of nothing."
"Prosperity shouldn't be a zero-sum game that only creates a few big winners at the expense of the many," Nelson said. "By their very nature, casinos create losers. This is how they pay for $150 million expansions like the one in Oak Grove."