Where Kentucky’s Gubernatorial Candidates Stand on Casino Gambling

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Kentucky's Capitol Building

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Kentucky’s Capitol Building

When Gov. Steve Beshear leaves office at the end of 2015, the campaign to legalize casinos in Kentucky will lose its highest-profile supporter of the last eight years.

Whoever takes his place could make or break the casino effort. Governors can promote or denounce casinos in their annual State of the Commonwealth speeches. They can marshal the support or opposition of legislators. They can veto bills aimed at legalizing casinos. (Read: What Does it Take to Legalize Casinos in Kentucky)

Five people have formally entered the race to succeed Beshear as governor. One openly endorses casinos, while two oppose them. Two others won’t say where they stand, only that they would side with the will of the people.

Here’s where the candidates stand:

Matt Bevin – Bevin opposes casinos, said spokeswoman Sarah Durand. “He does not believe casino gambling is a long-term solution for any of Kentucky’s financial problems, so that will not be a priority for his administration.”

James Comer – Campaign director Edwin King would not say if Comer personally supports or opposes casinos, only that he would go along with the majority in a public referendum. Meantime, however, Comer is listed as one of 13 “honorary co-chairs” of Kentucky Wins, an advocacy group in favor of casinos.

Jack Conway – Last July, the Associated Press reported Conway as saying he is “willing to campaign for expanded gambling” and continuing to support legislative measures to rescind the state Constitution’s ban on casinos. Conway also serves as one of the 13 honorary co-chairs of Kentucky Wins. Yet when asked anew if he supports or opposes the legalization of casinos, spokesman Mark Riddle would only say that Conway “supports letting the people vote.”

Hal Heiner – Heiner opposes casinos, according to a statement provided by spokesman Doug Alexander. “I am opposed to legalizing casino gambling in Kentucky and would not work to promote its passage as a constitutional amendment.”

Will T. Scott – Scott endorses the legalization of casinos in Kentucky.

(Read: How Kentucky Money Fuels Cross-Border Casinos, Other State Budgets)

Reporter James McNair can be reached at jmcnair@kycir.org and (502) 815-6543.

  • I think it will eventually pass. I hope they do not allocate any tax revenue as a payoff to the millionaire horse breeders or limit the locations to racetracks, though. I think their money has made our corrupt system even worse. BOPTROT taught expanded gambling interests they needed to be more subtle and technically follow the letter of the law. But you see Comer doing a complete 180 after over a decade in the KY House opposing it because his constituency changed and made the benefit of expanded gambling campaign contributions increase relative to the cost of alienating some of his constituency on the issue. [Statewide vs. Comer’s old state rep district.] Comer’s connections to Brett Hale and Bob Heleringer and their efforts to saddle Kentucky with woman-beater James Comer show how damaging their influence can be. [Brett Hale: http://goo.gl/bxlI83 ; Bob Heleringer: http://goo.gl/Di8eJO ]