FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Gov. Steve Beshear is planning to unveil gambling legislation by the end of next week, a proposal that he said could bring the state "several hundreds of millions" in new revenue over the next two years.
Some politicos saw the outcome of an eastern Kentucky election last Tuesday as a rebuke of expanded gambling. In that election, Beshear made casinos the issue and the party favored candidate was defeated in a two-to-one lDemocrat district that once belonged to Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo.
It is believed details of how expanded gaming will work are being fast tracked now to help cultivate support. The Republican Senate seat victory gives that party a 22 seat advantage. A vote to put the issue on the ballot will need 23 votes to pass.
Beshear is now selling expanded gaming as a quicker fix to the state's budget woes. Beshear says Casino license fees could be sold to bring in money to help offset a projected shortfall of nearly $900 million in the next budget cycle, Beshear told reporters Friday. The Democratic governor said he will propose a constitutional amendment that could lead to the legalization of casinos.
"Obviously, issues like this are controversial and much depends upon the details," Beshear said at an impromptu press conference outside his office. "People need to see it. They need to be able to digest it and talk about it and discuss it."
Beshear's support for legalizing casino gambling in Kentucky has been no secret. He campaigned against former Gov. Ernie Fletcher, a Republican, on a platform that included his call for a constitutional amendment allowing casinos.
Home of the Kentucky Derby, the Bluegrass state has long allowed gambling in various forms - at race tracks, bingo halls and through a state lottery. Casinos would be new, and are likely to be a polarizing issue in a Bible belt state where the Ten Commandments are posted in the Capitol Rotunda.
Recently, Beshear proposed an $18.5 billion two-year spending proposal that calls for significant cuts to state government agencies and public universities. Soaring costs in the state's Medicaid and prison systems are causing financial woes across state government.