Attorney General Andy Beshear asked Kentucky state lawmakers for the legalization of casinos and sports betting. In his recent letter to the lawmakers, he said that the money raised via this option could be used to save the public pension system of the state. Beshear made similar suggestions earlier this year when he announced his candidacy for Democratic Governor nomination in 2019.
The two-page letter contained Beshear’s arguments that helping the pension system of the state doesn’t have to come at a hefty cost. The lawmakers do not have to cut legally promised benefits. Instead, they have to expand the gambling sector, including sports gaming, fantasy sports, and casino. He also talked about the possibility of preparing for the legalization of online poker to help with this situation.
Before Andy Beshear, his father Steve Beshear used gambling expansion as a central demand in his successful 2007 campaign for governor. However, his efforts failed repeatedly to legalize casino gambling through the General Assembly. The assembly has only gotten more conservative with time.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has been a staunch opposer of legalized casinos in the state. His chief of staff Blake Brickman responded to Beshear’s statements, calling his proposal a “tired tenet” of the Democrats. He also noted that simply getting funding will not solve the problems that the pension system is facing and said that Gov. Bevin is “the only governor” committed to fixing the pension crisis by funding the system fully and calling for reforms.
This doesn’t mean that Beshear’s arguments are invalid, however old they may seem. As per his reasoning Kentuckians are spending big money wagering at five neighboring states. His letter does not suggest how much money legalize casino gambling would generate for the state, but it suggests that Indiana’s commercial gaming netted more than $600 million in direct tax revenue last year- a figure that Kentucky may want to replicate. Beshear suggests that legalized sports betting could raise a $30 million in annual state revenue.
Whether it would be enough to handle the looming problems of the pension fund is unclear. Currently, the eight pension plans in Kentucky has reported $42.7 billion in unfunded liabilities, which includes both health and pension plans. The state has improved during Bevin’s governorship slightly, but latest figures suggest that state pension has only 12.9 percent of the funds it would need to pay for future benefits.