The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce today announced a new and broad-based coalition of business, labor unions, teachers, local governments, horsemen and other Kentuckians that support a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November that allows citizens of the Commonwealth to vote on allowing casinos at race tracks and other locations.
David Adkisson, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, led the announcement of the group “Kentucky Alliance for Jobs,” which supports Gov. Steve Beshear’s bipartisan initiative for a constitutional amendment on expanded gaming.
"It's time for the legislature to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot so that we can settle this issue once and for all," said Adkisson.
"We have a very simple goal – let the people decide how to handle this issue of casino gaming,” said Adkisson, who represents the state’s largest business organization with more than 2,700 business members. “Year after year, the Kentucky Chamber has polled business leaders across the state on this issue. And year after year, our members overwhelmingly support expanded gaming and the citizens’ right to vote. We believe it is time to finally put the issue on the ballot.”
“This alliance represents the broadest coalition to unite behind a major piece of public policy in Frankfort in more than a decade. And the broad show of support by this alliance is only surpassed by the even broader desire by the public to vote on this issue,” Adkisson said.
According to a statewide poll conducted in December 2011 by Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, nearly nine out of 10 Kentuckians want the ability to vote on the issue of casino gaming. The poll showed that Kentuckians, regardless of their position for or against casino gaming, overwhelmingly favor by 87 percent to 10 percent the state legislature approving a vote of the people through a proposed constitutional amendment to allow casino gaming at racetracks in Kentucky. A poll conducted by the Republican Party of Kentucky around the same time likewise found that 80 percent of Kentuckians overwhelmingly think the issue of expanded gambling should be decided by a vote of the people.
Larry Roberts, state director of the Kentucky State Building & Construction Trades Council echoed that statewide support for a constitutional amendment.
“Look around you. Those of us here today represent every corner of our state, all political parties, we are moderates and conservatives, business and labor unions, teachers and private citizens – and, though we may disagree on many other issues, and are not shy about expressing those disagreements, on this issue we agree 100 percent: let the people decide,” said Roberts.
Stu Silberman, member of the group KEAT (Kentucky Education Action Team) said a strong, vibrant educational system is critical to a successful state economy.
At its last meeting, KEAT members voted to support placing the expanded gaming issue on the ballot so the citizens of Kentucky can decide this issue. KEAT believes there are too many uncertainties in adequately funding our schools in the future. As discussions continue about where to find new revenue to fund public schools, KEAT believes this issue needs to be decided, one way or the other.
“We believe that new revenue is needed to adequately fund the needs of our classrooms. Invested wisely, we can build new schools, modernize existing schools and ensure that our children have the resources they need to learn and ultimately compete in a modern economy,” Silberman said.
“The thousands of people who work in our school districts – teachers and principals, superintendents, bus drivers, custodians and educational assistants – all the educational employees at every level of our system along with all the advocates in this state for children – want the same thing: a chance to decide for themselves whether to allow expanded casino gaming in Kentucky,” he added.
KEAT represents the first statewide joint advocacy campaign by the seven founding members: Kentucky Association of School Administrators, Kentucky Association of School Councils, Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, Kentucky Education Association, Kentucky Parent Teacher Association, Kentucky School Boards Association and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.
Adkisson pointed out that Kentucky's signature horse industry is experiencing losses due in large part to other states allowing expanded gaming.
“Kentucky is struggling to hold on to its status as the ‘Horse Capital of the World’ due to our inability to compete with other racing states that use alternative gaming revenues to increase purses and breeding incentives,” Adkisson said. “We are losing tax dollars, world class horses and horsemen – and most importantly the jobs that go with them – to these other states. Permitting our citizens to vote on this important issue is a very reasonable economic response. Let’s bring those tax dollars home and invest in our kids, our families and our future.”
According to Roberts, "By putting the issue of casino gaming on the ballot in a statewide election, the General Assembly is not approving casino gaming at this time. They will merely give the voters of Kentucky the chance to decide this issue for themselves based on the evidence.”
Kentucky Alliance for Jobs represents tens of thousands of Kentuckians who overwhelmingly support putting a simple constitutional amendment on the ballot this November to decide expanded gaming.
Members of the newly formed “Kentucky Alliance for Jobs” include:
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
Kentucky Education Action Team (KEAT)
Kentucky State Building & Construction Trades Council
Kentucky Association of Manufacturers
Greater Louisville Inc.
Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
Kentucky Education Association
Kentucky School Boards Association
Kentucky Association of School Superintendents
Kentucky League of Cities
Kentucky Association of Counties
Kentucky County Judge Executives Association
Louisville Metro Mayor Greg Fischer
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray
United Auto Workers Local 862
Teamsters Local 89
Teamsters Local 783
Kentucky Association for Economic Development
United Food & Commercial Workers
Jefferson County Teachers Association
Kentucky Distillers’ Association
Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau
Kentucky Equine Education Project
Kentucky Equine Health & Welfare Alliance
Kentucky Horse Council
Kentucky Thoroughbred Association
The Kentucky Alliance for Jobs is recruiting other members to its statewide grassroots coalition and will urge members of the coalition to contact their legislators and ask them – whether they are for or against expanded gaming – to let the people decide.