Opponents of expanded gaming in Kentucky say Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision clearing a path for states to legalize sports betting has them concerned but hopeful the General Assembly will resist pressure to okay the practice in the commonwealth. Others see promise.
By striking down a 1992 law barring most states from authorizing sports betting, the high court handed a win to advocates of expanded gambling as a route to raise revenue for cash-strapped states like Kentucky.
Kent Ostrander with the Family Foundation of Kentucky, an organization deeply opposed to the industry, tells WUKY he does not expect the state to seize the opportunity presented by Monday’s ruling – but he’s keeping his eye on the legislature’s next moves.
"If they really need more money, they can just raise taxes a percent or two. I'm not for that, but they could do that and they wouldn't have to give half or more than half of the money to the gambling industry," he said. "The gambling industry walks away with most of the money and the government gets a pittance."
Yet gaming is often cited as a potential money-maker that could help alleviate Kentucky’s mounting pension obligations.
"We've got to move forward in this state and now that the Supreme Court has opened that door with this decision, which was expected, we need to really start putting the structure in place to do that," the senator urged. "We've had sports gaming in Kentucky for a century now. We've done it through pari-mutuel wagering... so sports gaming is nothing new to Kentucky . We just need to expand it."
The Family Foundation has been fighting historical racing wagering in Kentucky court for nearly eight years. A decision on the legality of the gaming systems is expected any day.