With three months to go before the 2006 Kentucky General Assembly convenes in Frankfort, Lt. Gov. Steve Pence told a group of lawmakers and lobbyists Sept. 27 not to expect Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher and his administration to be out in front on the casino gambling issue.
Pence said although his personal view of gaming differs from that of the governor, he will support Fletcher's anti-casino stance in the upcoming legislative session.
"The governor is opposed and won't support expanded gaming," Pence said to an audience of proponents and opponents of expanded gaming at a public policy forum held in Versailles, Ky. "But if legislation is presented to the legislature, he won't stand in the way if it meets the criteria of being fair to the horse industry, fair to the Commonwealth, and is approved by voters."
Pence recognized the moral debate on gambling, but said people must realize that gambling already exists in Kentucky through pari-mutuel wagering, charitable gaming, and a state lottery.
"We need to stop pretending we don't have gaming in Kentucky, because we do," Pence said. "We already have a lot
of gambling in Kentucky."
Pence also said gaming should not be a substitute for good fiscal policy, but noted Kentucky is losing money to neighboring Indiana via riverboat casinos.
"There is money --taxpayers' money, that belongs to the citizens of the commonwealth-- being used to finance roads and schools and projects in Indiana," Pence said. "The question is do we want that money in Kentucky --to finance our roads and our schools?"
It's estimated that Kentucky residents gambling at Indiana's five casinos on the Kentucky-Indiana border generated $193 million in tax revenues in Indiana during the 2005 fiscal year, according to a recent study released by Christiansen Capital Advisors, a gaming consultant company.
Pence said that social ramifications, including addictive gambling, would inevitably follow legalized casino gambling, but all the pros and cons should be explored as the issue moves forward.
"Just because it's a hard issue, doesn't mean it's one people shouldn't try to tackle," Pence said.