Expanded gaming amendment an attempt to prevent cuts to retirement benefits, Dem. lawmakers say

09/25/2017 03:45 PM

“How are we going to pay for them? That’s the real question,” Rep. Rick Rand said, talking about billions of dollars in pension underfunding.

Rand, D-Bedford, and Rep. Dennis Keene, D-Wilder, are proposing a constitutional amendment which would allow expanded gambling at casinos and limited gaming at horse tracks as a way to deal with massive pension debt.

Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration assesses the underfunding of the state pension systems at more than $60 billion. The PFM Consulting Group has recommended a series of structural changes to lawmakers to consider, but none of the options deal with revenue.

“Rick was as stunned as I was, we were sitting in that room and it was all about cuts,” Keene said of the PFM report. “We just sat there and thought, well we can’t have this, so that’s when we went back to the drawing board and started looking at the gaming.”

The constitutional amendment that Keene and Rand propose would allow for four free-standing casinos in Kentucky, and allow slots at the horse-racing tracks. Keene said an LRC conservative estimate predicts $325 million in licensing fees, and $236 million in revenue from casinos.

“That does not include the border of Tennessee which has no casino gambling, so when they say you’ve missed that boat — we haven’t missed that boat — because there’s a whole new market in Tennessee, including that Nashville market which could be very advantageous for us,” Keene said.

In years past legislators seeking to expand gaming in Kentucky attempted to work with the horse racing tracks in an effort to protect their profits; with this attempt, Rand said they’re done trying to work with the tracks.

“We decided we’re just not as concerned with the horse racing industry,” Rand said. “I mean, we hope they do well, but they just can’t get their act together on this — they just can’t.

“Really, our motivation are these pensions and what we’re going to do on these pensions,” Rand continued. “The pensions are over 500,000 families in Kentucky rely on payroll or pensions from the state.”

Keene and Rand are hopeful that by prefiling the bill will will be considered in the 2018 session, and then ratified by the people of Kentucky on the ballot in 2019. The Democratic lawmakers hope discussion on their bill and the revenue for pensions starts during a yet to be called special session later this year.

Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics available exclusively on Spectrum News. Pure Politics is the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like his coverage of the backlog of DNA rape kits waiting to be tested in Kentucky. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Pure Politics airs weeknight at 7 and 11:30 on Spectrum News. Follow Nick on Twitter @NStorm_Politics. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

7 Comments

Comments

  • sadkyworker wrote on September 26, 2017 08:35 AM :

    Thank you Rand Bedford and Keene for looking for a solution to the unfunded liability rather than penalizing state workers and teachers for a problem they did not create. Expanded gaming will not solve the unfunded liability but it will help fill the hole and provide jobs. States that have expanded gaming have received a large influx of cash into their coffers. ALL potential sources of additional revenue should be considered before cutting pensions.

  • sadkyworker wrote on September 26, 2017 08:36 AM :

    Thank you Rand Bedford and Keene for looking for a solution to the unfunded liability rather than penalizing state workers and teachers for a problem they did not create. Expanded gaming will not solve the unfunded liability but it will help fill the hole and provide jobs. States that have expanded gaming have received a large influx of cash into their coffers. ALL potential sources of additional revenue should be considered before cutting pensions.

  • Honest Parley wrote on September 26, 2017 10:04 AM :

    What a profoundly cowardly approach to take resources from predominantly low income people to make up for your own inaction, Reps. Rand and Keene. You’ve both been there throughout this fiasco, doing NOTHING. And now your solution is no solution at all.

  • Reality Check wrote on September 26, 2017 10:22 AM :

    Too little, too late. Steve Beshear ran on an expanded gaming platform in 2007. That’s when significant revenue could be generated. Since then, instant racing has been implemented at a number of tracks with more to come based on the recent announcement by Keeneland and Churchill Downs. I doubt there is sufficient appetite among gaming investors to pony up the large license fees that were proposed in the 2008 GA session. I have a great deal of respect for Representatives Rand and Keene, but I’m afraid this is not going to fly.

  • Reality Check wrote on September 26, 2017 10:25 AM :

    Too little, too late. Steve Beshear ran on an expanded gaming platform in 2007. That’s when significant revenue could be generated. Since then, instant racing has been implemented at a number of tracks with more to come based on the recent announcement by Keeneland and Churchill Downs. I doubt there is sufficient appetite among gaming investors to pony up the large license fees that were proposed in the 2008 GA session. I have a great deal of respect for Representatives Rand and Keene, but I’m afraid this is not going to fly.

  • Ricky Lee Williams Jr. wrote on September 26, 2017 10:50 AM :

    FBI to announce game fixing at the University of Louisville and a few other top programs.. RL

  • Cat Balz wrote on September 26, 2017 05:14 PM :

    Julian Carroll now supports legalized sports wagering. It must be true the snakehandlers threw him out of their church when it became known Julian plays the flute.

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