Lawmakers weighing desire for revenue against social cost - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Lawmakers weighing desire for revenue against social cost of casino gambling

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Supporters of expanded gambling believe budget cuts proposed by Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear may improve the odds of a casino bill passing the legislature this year.

But opponents today got their chance to tell lawmakers why casinos are a bad bet.

State-sponsored exploitation: that's how opponents characterize expanded gambling. But this year, could the cost of funding state government trump any cultural cost of casinos in Kentucky?

"We see this industry's practices as exploitative and harmful and certain to undermine civil life by turning government into that industry's co-predator," said Rev. Marian McClure Taylor, executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches.

Gambling opponents told the House Licensing and Occupations committee that the numbers simply do not add up; that when it comes to allowing casinos in Kentucky, the social cost outweighs any benefit.

"One new addiction is a burden on our state, on our communities, and on our families. We are a state full of addictions, Mr. Chairman. Yet, some of us would voluntarily invite another powerful addiction to settle within our borders," testified John Mark Hack of the organization Stop Predatory Gambling.

But casino supporters point to Gov. Beshear's budget proposal outlined Tuesday night.

The governor wants to cut nearly $99 million from other state agencies to fund his education plan.

Larry Clark of Louisville has filed two casino bills in the House.

"You can't run agencies with 41-percent cuts and provide service to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We've got to find new money," said Clark.

But opponents say lawmakers should spend their energy on tax reform, not gambling.

"One fleeces Kentuckians and makes new addicts. While the other offers promises of a fair and just way of raising needed government revenue," said Hack.

Clark wants any plan for casinos to first pass the Senate.

But so far, no bill has been filed, and Senate President Robert Stivers says he'll oppose any measure that comes forward.

"It's not a lack of revenues. It's how you want to define your priorities of spending," he said.

So, bottom line, here in Frankfort, talk of expanded gambling is just that: talk -- with each chamber waiting for the other to make the first move.

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