FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - As Kentucky politicians wrangle over Gov. Steve Beshear's plan to legalize casinos, an antigambling women's group is planning a Tuesday rally warning lawmakers about some social ills that could manifest later as a result.
Carol Devine, a student minister in Danville, believes casino gambling will bring with it many social problems - addictions, bankruptcies and broken families. Devine, and others in Women Against Casino Gambling, believe that it's mainly Kentucky women who will be saddled with any negative fallout from gambling.
"Women have a unique perspective in us as mothers and wives," Devine said. "Women have a unique perspective in that they would be the ones that would clean up any mess left by casinos."
Gov. Steve Beshear is pushing a plan to amend Kentucky's constitution and allow up to 12 casinos across the state. Seven would be owned by horse tracks, while the remaining five would be considered freestanding.
Beshear, a Democrat, says Kentucky's cash-strapped government can eventually take in about $600 million a year from casino gambling revenue - not to mention the $500 million in up-front casino license fees.
The newly elected governor is calling for a constitutional amendment legalizing casino gambling and separate legislation that would govern them. He points out that casinos already line Kentucky's borders, and gambling on horses, the lottery and in bingo halls is already legal.
But Beshear's plan has been met with mixed reactions in the General Assembly.
House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, said last week the
constitutional amendment had better odds of passage. But changes were needed in both, Richards said.
The legislation has an uncertain future in the GOP-controlled Senate, where President David Williams opposes the plan. Williams, R-Burkesville, said last week he would not block the legislation, however.
Nevertheless, Devine believes the discussion shouldn't get that
Slot machines, with their whirling lights and flashy jackpots, could pose as the more dangerous temptation for some people, Devine said. Despite the current forms of legal gambling, casinos would offer a whole different set of problems, she said.
Most of the state revenue generated from casinos would come from problem gamblers, not the people who occasionally place small wagers purely for entertainment, Devine said. Gambling problems can also lead to domestic abuse, increased crime and divorce, Devine said.
"Slots are what they call the crack of gambling - it's a highly addictive substance that's created so that the people who sit in front of them will gamble to extinction," Devine said. "It just takes gambling a whole different route."
Beshear has said that Kentuckians already gamble money in neighboring states that goes to pay for their health care, education and roads. Currently, according to economic forecasters, Kentucky is facing a two year spending deficit of about $900 million beginning July 1.
Joy Bolton, executive director of Kentucky Woman's Missionary Union, believes casinos can lead to gambling addictions that would hurt families throughout the state.
"If we approve this, as a state, we are saying we encourage people to be stupid with their money," Bolton said. "And we're saying that those people who are affected by problem gamblers don't
--- The legislation is House Bill 537 and House Bill 550.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)