By Rep. Adam Koenig: This bill is called the “Sports Wagering” Bill because it will expand gambling in Kentucky beyond 1) horse racing, 2) charitable gambling, and 3) The Lottery, into the world of sports and “other” competition. Originally, the bill authorized wagering only on professional sports, but the bill’s language has already been expanded into college sports in Kentucky. Beyond “sports wagering” there is a phrase in the bill that reads: “’Sports Wagering’ means the placing of wagers on the outcomes of professional sports contests and other events . . .” This vague language takes the bill well outside sports into any realm the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission wants to choose. (i.e. “The color of the Governor’s tie next Monday” or “How many semi-trucks will travel under the bridge at Exit 117 in the next hour.”)
Advocates say: 1) Gambling is already going on in Kentucky, so let’s legalize and regulate it; 2) You cannot stop people from gambling so we might as well legalize it; 3) Other states around us are gambling so we
should follow their lead and not be left behind as legalized gambling moves across America; 4) The Commonwealth can use more revenue and the $20 million that may come in through “Sports Wagering” could help the state deal with the pension crisis; 5) Some money will go to the state’s horse racing industry so they can strengthen their place in the world of horse racing; 6) Everyone should be able do as they please.
Opponents say: 1) To expand gambling you must change the Kentucky Constitution with an amendment, not a “simple” bill; 2) HB137 targets the poor and young people because it authorizes gambling on cell phones “24- hours / 7-days”; 3) The language is overbroad, giving the Racing Commission complete control over a H-U-G-E expansion of new gambling; 4) The bill appears to have been written BY the gambling interests FOR the gambling interests with no concern for the people; 5) No studies – zero – have been done to predict the impact on Kentucky families; and 6) The Racing Commission does not have to abide by the Executive Branch Ethics Code.
Prospect of Passage: Because of the influence and money of Kentucky’s horse racing industry, this bill will pass unless many calls come in against it.
Policy Opinions: The Family’s VS. The Gambling Industry’s
FAMILY – #1: The Family is targeted. Gambling doesn’t create new wealth; it only makes wealth change hands. Then where does all the money come from? Corporations can’t gamble, nor can businesses, institutions, schools, churches, nonprofits, nor civic groups – only Moms and Dads, and a few single people. In other words, all the BILLIONS of dollars that is gambled is just a shift of assets FROM the hands of the family INTO the hands of the gambling industry.
GAMBLING INDUSTRY – #1: The Family is served. Every family has the opportunity to spend their entertainment dollars the way they want to. We serve ALL families and all kinds of families – we do not discriminate against anyone. As many as WANT to gamble we will serve. Gambling is fun and challenging, and we make it as pleasing and pleasurable as we can. We want repeat customers! In fact, some find that it can be a good way to unwind from all the stresses of life. In addition, it can be a setting where friends come together to bet on the same or similar events. Gambling has been going on for centuries – don’t try to stop it in Kentucky.
FAMILY – #2: Businesses will lose. As families lose, businesses lose. Think about it – after all the losses, parents can’t afford to take the family out to eat, buy their children new school clothes, purchase a new refrigerator or finance a new home addition. Businesses suffer because money is TAKEN OUT of the economy. Remember, Las Vegas was built by losers – not winners.
GAMBLING INDUSTRY – #2: Businesses can gain. Food and beverage companies will prosper as gambling sites are developed, including Kentucky’s burgeoning bourbon industry. New service businesses will arise to serve the gambling industry. Besides, gamblers are generous people and they enjoy spending money like anyone else. If someone wins big, they will have plenty of money to spend in their community on all sorts of purchases.
FAMILY – #3: Government will be corrupted. With millions going into the hands of the gambling industry, who becomes the greatest contributor and most influential group in the political process? The gambling industry will have the cash! Consider Nevada, home of Las Vegas: Their legislature was elected just like ours, but has voted to legalize prostitution (because the gambling industry wanted it). And, there are 13 abortion clinics serving Las Vegas – population 640,000; Kentucky has one serving 4.3 million. Government changes!
GAMBLING INDUSTRY – #3: Government will regulate it. Our goal is to have government regulate all gambling so that no one is found cheating – cheating doesn’t help the gambling industry or those that participate. Government agencies can be built and current agencies can be strengthened to make sure that players are playing fairly and that all the money that the government should receive gets to the right place.
FAMILY – #4: The Vulnerable will be destroyed. Though families are targeted (see #1 above), finances aren’t the worst of the costs. Financial loss is just the beginning of a tragedy that all the family members experience. Some lives will be totally destroyed – marriage-damaging financial stress, alcoholism, drug use, child neglect and abuse, spouse neglect and abuse, divorce, depression, suicide, embezzlement, imprisonment and crime (both victim and perpetrator). And worse, children will lose their childhoods and be affected for a lifetime. Doctors have a policy regarding treatments: “First, do no harm.” Policy-makers in Frankfort would do well to apply this same wisdom. (Note: 18-year-olds can gamble on their phones.)
GAMBLING INDUSTRY – #4: The Vulnerable will be helped. Yes, it’s true that roughly three percent of gamblers become addicted gamblers – they literally cannot stop. And another three percent become problem gamblers – they can stop, but sometimes they don’t. Either way we spend money when they come to us in order to show them their errors and vulnerabilities so they do not fall more deeply into their problem. We have set aside a portion of our profits for twelve-step programs that can help those who have been hurt by their own vulnerabilities.