By BRUCE SCHREINER
Associated Press Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky's gubernatorial candidates on Wednesday took their squabble over gambling to an agricultural forum where farm policy mingled with talk about legalizing casinos.
Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher and Democratic challenger Steve Beshear were peppered with questions about such core issues as health care and education as well as more specific farm related issues like state regulations, agricultural development and new markets for products.
But the most pointed comments at a Kentucky Farm Bureau forum came as the two continued their disagreement over whether casino gambling should be legalized.
Fletcher denounced casino gambling as a "get rich scheme" that he said wouldn't produce the long-term revenues promised. He said casinos would divert spending away from existing businesses. He raised concerns that it would lead to organized crime infiltrating Kentucky.
"That is not consistent with your values," Fletcher told Farm Bureau officials.
Beshear, who supports casino gambling, said Fletcher had "flip-flopped" on the issue. For most of his term, Fletcher had said he personally opposes gambling but was willing to allow Kentuckians to vote on whether to allow it. He has since said he opposes putting the issue on the ballot.
Beshear said casino gambling should be limited to racetracks and two or three freestanding facilities.
Beshear has projected that casino gambling could generate at least $500 million in additional tax revenues each year, which could be used to improve Kentucky's economy rather than relying on selling bonds to raise money.
"We don't need to borrow our way to prosperity because that's a false premise," Beshear said. "All we're doing is putting debt on our children and on our grandchildren."
On farm policy, both candidates pledged support for the continued use of tobacco settlement money to strengthen Kentucky agriculture. They also promised to focus on nurturing ethanol and other alternative fuels that use raw farm products.
Agriculture is a $4 billion industry in Kentucky.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)