Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has concluded a "win-win" situation for himself with respect to the "gaming" issue, but now he needs to find solutions to the budget problems, a harder task by far, though the House, according to the State Constitution, is supposed to finagle a budget of some kind, with the governor responsible for merely administering it. One remembers budget problems of other days when Joe Clark and Michael Moloney, chairmen of the House and Senate A&R Committees back in the 90s, respectively, would meet during the last hours of the biennial session and hammer out a budget to be rubber-stamped in both houses.
The main player of the week is House Speaker Richards, who, upon not getting his way with the casino bill, simply packed the appropriate committee in order to prevail by dumping one member and adding two. Simple…done the Kentucky way! In so doing, he managed to allow Beshear to satisfy his patron, William Yung, by attempting to make casinos possible anywhere, while only slightly hurting his reputation with the "horsy set," since he at least delivered on a promise to get the casino matter in the pot.
Richards managed to get a bill out of committee that while allowing five racetracks (among nine sites altogether) to establish casinos did not guarantee them that privilege. This made him, not the governor, the heavy among the horse people, who wanted a guarantee of exclusiveness for the tracks. Richards will not run for the governorship again so he had nothing to lose with respect to the pony establishments. He also had nothing to lose vis-à-vis Yung and the big-shot slots-folks, since that crowd is not his constituency, anyway.
This entire mess points to the actual motivations of the people pushing for casinos. The racing crowd wanted entire control at the outset of the shenanigans, pushing for casinos ONLY at the tracks, thus sewing up the entire gambling operation in the state, other than the lottery and the bingo games. KEEP (Kentucky Equine Education Project) has inveighed profoundly with respect to how the casinos (track-controlled) would be the savior of Kentucky education. Casino-control, however, would have enriched the racing industry exponentially, allowing the tracks to reap ALL the benefits, which it could distribute – or not – as it saw fit.
Initially, the governor's plan was unbelievably weighted by concessions to the horse crowd, such as a casino guaranteed at the seven main tracks (12 sites altogether), with the state's take 30% less from track-casinos than its take at stand-alone casinos run by other than the horsy set. His proposed amendment-prologue was right out of the KEEP playbook and didn't mention casinos until the 43rd word. Can anyone find it hard to imagine a simple casino amendment that might take a dozen words, instead of the 93-word quagmire of propagandized verbosity proposed by Beshear? That proposal made him whole with everybody – Yung, the "gamers" who will invade the state upon passage, and the racing operatives.
Actually, the guv's proposal assumed a level of ignorance among both legislators and populace that was transparently palpable. The initial committee vote not liked by Richards cut the total number of gambling pits to nine but still GUARANTEED that five tracks would own them. Presumably, the tax-cut would – given a successful bill – still apply, so that the racers would have tremendous advantage over all other operators. That didn't work, so the present bill is operative in the House, where the democrat caucus runs the show and republicans can go along for the ride – or not. The tax-break will probably stand, however.
The stated objective all along has been that the casinos would be the magic bullet aimed at the suckers who would "game" in great numbers, thus enhancing state revenue by hundreds of millions annually. Gambling would contribute to state coffers, but one wonders if the primary objective by the big-time players has always been "just what they can get out of it." Wherever gambling (something for nothing) has entered the picture officially, the operators are the big winners. The horse industry in Kentucky provides some of the best proof of this.
And so it goes.