For years, proposals to expand gambling opportunities have been debated in Kentucky, but have never been able to get through the House and Senate.
“We believe that we have fashioned something that could and should and hopefully will pass both chambers,” the Democratic governor said Tuesday.
Republican Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown will sponsor legislation that would begin the process of amending the Constitution. If approved by lawmakers, the proposal would be placed on the ballot in November to be ratified or rejected by voters.
“The issue of expanded gambling, after nearly two decades of debate, has reached a tipping point,” Beshear said. “Recently, the people of this state were polled by two separate organizations, including the state Republican Party. Both surveys found that more than 80 percent of the people of this state, regardless of whether they support expanded gambling or are against it, want the right to vote on it. The question is simple: Do we as leaders listen to our people or do we ignore them?”
Despite the long history of wagering on horses, Kentucky’s constitution frowns on casino-style gambling. And many Kentucky lawmakers have been reluctant to vote to change it, knowing they may face un-approving constituents in upcoming legislative elections.
To get through the General Assembly, the proposal has to be approved by a supermajority of lawmakers. That means 23 of the state’s 38 senators and 60 of the 100 representatives must vote in favor.
Beshear said Kentuckians now are wagering hundreds of millions of dollars in casinos in neighboring states.