FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Though the chips may be down, Gov. Steve Beshear is refusing to give up on his proposal to legalize casinos
The Democratic governor, flanked by about 20 House lawmakers,
declared Monday that the casino proposal still is in play.
"It's still an uphill battle," Beshear said. "I don't think there's any question about that, but it's a battle that we need to fight, and we need it fight it right now."
Antigambling advocates said they were surprised that Beshear still is pressing the divisive issue with only eight working days remaining in the legislative session.
"The last I knew, you don't get a dead horse to move by beating on it," said the Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper, head of the Kentucky Council of Churches. "It's not going to get up and trot to the finish line."
Beshear said casinos could help stave off a projected $900 million financial shortfall and severe cuts in government services. Allowing casinos to open, then taxing them, could generate some $600 million in sorely needed state revenue," he said.
"I think it's very clear that Kentucky can certainly use a substantial amount of recurring revenue of some sort," Beshear said.
Although Kentucky has a long tradition of wagering at horse tracks, the state constitution specifically forbids casinos. Beshear wants lawmakers to approve a constitutional amendment. If they do, Kentucky voters would get to ratify or reject the amendment in a ballot referendum.
"It is time that we let the people of Kentucky decide this issue," Beshear said during a speech Monday in the Capitol Rotunda.
Dave Adkisson, head of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, urged
lawmakers to approve the casino proposal. He said Kentucky residents already are spending more than $1 billion a year at casinos in neighboring states.
"It just doesn't make sense that we would be sending our dollars, and our citizens with their recreation dollars, across the border,' Adkisson said.
State Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, was among those appearing
with the governor to support the casino proposal.
"It is absolutely essential to our children," said Moberly, chairman of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee. "It's essential to our economic development and prosperity and the future of this state."
John-Mark Hack, head of the antigambling group Say No To Casinos, said the proposal still doesn't have enough support in the
House or Senate to pass.
"The governor and House leadership are acting like compulsive
gamblers who just can't quit losing," Hack said. "And it seems now that they're placing a wager on a horse that's clearly foundered."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)