Opponents Target Beshear On Gambling Plan

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A day after Democratic gubernatorial
candidate Steve Beshear's campaign received a key endorsement,
opponents went on the attack, saying his proposal to raise tax
money by legalizing casino-style gambling will take years to
implement and won't cover all the state's financial needs.
Beshear, speaking at an AARP forum in Frankfort on Tuesday,
touted casino-style gambling as a means to pay for a variety of
government programs, including medical and social services for
senior citizens.
While nearly all the Democratic candidates offer varying degrees
of support for expanded gambling, they differ on its financial
impact and when that impact would reach the state budget.
"If we gamble on our future, that is the wrong thing to do,"
said former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, one of six candidates in the
Democratic primary race. "Gambling will be a solution perhaps, if
the legislature votes on it, in three or four years."
For years, horse racetracks in Kentucky have lobbied
unsuccessfully for the right to offer casino-style gambling, saying
they need it to stay competitive with out-of-state tracks whose
purses are supplemented by casino revenues. However, poll results
published in late February by The Courier-Journal showed that 52
percent of Kentuckians favor casinos at the tracks, 38 percent
oppose them and 10 percent were undecided.
For casino-style gambling to be considered, the state's
constitution would have to be amended. That requires lawmakers to
agree to put such a measure on the ballot to allow voters to decide
the issue.
Harlan County demolition contractor Otis Hensley is the only
Democratic candidate who opposes putting the measure on the ballot.
House Speaker Jody Richards said he won't oppose the measure in the
legislature, but he won't vote for it at the polls. Louisville
businessman Bruce Lunsford and Lexington attorney Gatewood
Galbraith said gambling alone wouldn't be enough to cover the
state's financial needs.
All the Democratic candidates and two Republican candidates took
part Tuesday in the AARP forum, which was interrupted briefly when
Henry, an orthopedic surgeon, dashed from his seat to help a woman
who had fainted.
Beshear has made the gambling issue the center of his campaign,
saying Kentuckians spent $1 billion a year on gambling in
neighboring states and that he wants them to be able to spend that
money here. To legalize casino-style gambling, Beshear said, would
generate about $500 million a year that could be used to pay
teachers higher wages, to improve health care and to increase
education funding.
"I'm like the rest of the folks. If people want to vote on it,
I'm for that," said Richards, who is making his second bid for
governor. "But I do warn you, that will not solve all our
problems."
State Treasurer Jonathan Miller dropped out of the Democratic
gubernatorial race Monday, citing sagging poll numbers, dwindling
campaign cash and the prospect of the crowded field producing a
nominee who was "unelectable" in the fall. In the same news
conference where he announced his withdrawal, Miller endorsed
Beshear's candidacy.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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