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Time to OPPOSE Senate Bill 151, Bad Bet for Kentucky19 Feb

ACTION: CALL 1-800-372-7181 IMMEDIATELY. URGE YOUR STATE SENATOR TO VOTE NO ON SENATE BILL 151.

Read our letter to Senators urging a NO vote on SB 151: Catholic Conference Letter Opposing Expanded Gambling

Sen. Damon Thayer, SB 151 sponsor

An effort to expand gambling in Kentucky has begun, supported by professional gambling corporations, the racing industry, various labor unions and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. In other words, a lot of money is betting that SB 151 will pass. WE CANNOT LET THAT HAPPEN.

We posted early in the session about some of the reasons the Conference has opposed efforts of this sort since at least 1996.

Senate Bill 151 as introduced wants to expand gambling beyond horse racing and our state lottery by allowing 7 casinos to open if the legislature approves the bill for ratification on the November ballot. The Conference has written a letter detailing our opposition which we encourage you to read.

Kentucky needs a stable stream of revenue that is progressive in nature, a reformed tax law that requires taxpayers to pay their fair share. The state should not depend on an unreliable, regressive source of funding like professional gambling to meet the needs of its residents, especially the 800,000 already living in poverty.

Income derived from expanded gambling is the result of gambling losses – money spent by those hoping to be winners, but who are, ultimately, losers. Is this a responsible way to fund government?

In 2008 the University of Kentucky’s Survey Research Center found that found that Kentucky’s overall prevalence rate of lifetime compulsive gamblers is 0.3 percent of all adult Kentuckians. The overall prevalence rate of lifetime problem gamblers is 1.7 percent. The overall prevalence rate of lifetime at-risk gamblers is 6.2 percent. Based on this research, it is estimated that there are nearly 190,000 at-risk gamblers, more than 50,000 problem gamblers, and more than 9,000 compulsive gamblers.

Data from the 2008 survey indicates, among gamblers, the following groups are at relatively higher risk to have some manifestation of problem or compulsive gambling:

  • males
  • young adults 18-24 years of age
  • Blacks and other racial minorities
  • those who have never married
  • those who have been divorced or who are separated
  • employed adults
  • individuals in residing in households with incomes of $25,000 or less.

Senate Bill 151 is not a dream, but a nightmare that is regressive in nature as a revenue source, preying on needy individuals especially vulnerable to the lure of the casino and the promise of great fortune. For those who are struggling to make ends meet, casino gambling can provide an attractive means to relieve financial burdens, which ultimately only leads to crushing debt and personal crisis.

An article published February 17 in the Lexington Herald-Leader about Governor Beshear’s weekly Internet chat reported that the Governor “touted gambling as a way to generate additional money for the state budget by allowing casinos to open and then taxing their revenue.”

Apparently Governor Beshear did not read the article published January 16 in the Lexington Herald-Leader - Casinos no cure-all for state budgets, economists say – reporting on the experience of other states and the failure of professional gambling to provide the revenue necessary to meet the needs in those states. The newspaper found that in two dozen states with casino revenue “[a]ll of them cut spending; half raised taxes. Some fired thousands of their public workers, including educators and police, and gutted their basic classroom funding.”

Any number of studies point to the harmful effects that result in expanding the opportunities to gamble, especially among low-income persons and those who suffer from gambling addiction. A 2009 study in Connecticut found an increase in employment and revenues, but also a 400 percent increase in embezzlement arrests, a doubling of driving while intoxicated arrests, and an increase in personal bankruptcies in areas where the state’s two Indian casinos are located. The data is clear that proximity to casinos in general and predatory slot machines in particular increases addiction rates, and casinos derive at least 60% of their revenues from problem gamblers.

When looking at potential sources for new revenue, it is the responsibility of government to consider the consequences. Continued expansion of gambling will be devastating to individuals and families.

We cannot improve the conditions of our low-income sisters and brothers by throwing away some of them to lives of addiction to predatory gambling. The Catholic Conference of Kentucky continues to support the resolution of the Kentucky Council of Churches in which it states the following:

For the Christian, the common good, therefore, must be established by just and honest means. In a democratic society, government must persuade its citizens to support with their taxes the programs the citizens believe will be instrumental in nurturing and protecting all members of society and efficacious for productive economy and just relations among all residents of that political entity.

ACTION: CALL 1-800-372-7181 IMMEDIATELY. URGE YOUR STATE SENATOR TO VOTE NO ON SENATE BILL 151.

Photo: KY Legislative Research Commission

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