Opponents of expanded gambling in Kentucky are focusing on the social costs of casinos. Testimony from anti-gaming groups in Frankfort Wednesday connected expanded gambling with increases in crime and gambling addiction.
Members of anti-gaming groups told lawmakers that the harm gaming would cause isn’t worth the estimated $286 million in new tax revenue that Rep. Larry Clark says his gaming bill would generate.
Former Representative Stan Cave is now with the anti-gaming Family Foundation. He said in addition to the vices associated with gambling, he’s concerned with a lack of transparency governing gambling interests.
“The gambling bill enables concealment, and licenses secrecy," said Cave. "For example, section four expands the exceptions to the open records law, to whatever the new gambling commission considers, quote, ‘confidential, proprietary information of the commission.’”
He’s also concerned that Clark’s legislation permits too much secrecy among gaming companies and the state.
“Does anyone believe that lawyers for the gambling industry, who are lawyered-up like no other industry, will not be communicating with the lawyers with the gambling commission?" said Cave. "Does anyone believe that those communications will be intended to influence the outcome of decisions in matters that are before this new gambling commission?”
Clark defended his bill, saying it provides funding for gambling addiction treatment, and the revenue it would bring in is necessary in light of proposed budget cuts from the governor.
“I don’t think there’s any appetite to do tax modernization this session," said Clark. "Either we’re gonna have to come up with new revenue or there’s gonna be more cuts. We’ve got some agencies cut by 41 percent.”
Legislation has been filed to amend the state constitution to allow expanded gambling and to put the issue before voters on the November ballot. The legislation in the House includes funds for treating gambling addiction. Neither chamber has taken up the issue for a vote on their respective floors.