Opponents to casino gaming say lawmakers should look to taxation before gaming to create revenue

01/22/2014 11:17 AM

Opponents to casino gaming got their turn Wednesday before a House committee Wednesday and urged them to turn to the tax code instead of slot machines and table games for additional revenue.

Pointing to Gov. Steve Beshear’s budget that included cuts to many agencies, anti-gambling advocates told lawmakers that if it’s more money they’re after, casinos are the wrong way to go.

“Fair taxation has always spread the tax burden across the entire realm of society – with various kinds of taxation,” said Kent Ostrander, the executive director for the Family Foundation. “It does not target just one group. The bottom line is that Kentucky’s families are targeted in this scheme.”

But Democratic Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, who is sponsoring the gambling legislation in the House, told reporters after the meeting that he doesn’t feel there is any “appetite to do tax modernization in the session.”

Clark said the cuts proposed in Beshear’s budget proposal he unveiled on Tuesday will deeply affect state agencies.

“You can’t run agencies with 41 percent cuts and provide services to the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Clark said. “We gotta find new money, and if it’s not tax modernization the alternative is casino gaming or expanded gaming. And I think the bill we drafted is thoughtful we’ve had everybody look at it and I hope we can move it forward, but we’ll wait for the Senate to take action on the constitutional amendment.”

Ostrander told lawmakers in the committee that families must lose for casinos to win.

“That makes the $50 million casino license fee nothing more than a hunting license for casino’s to come in and hunt for the wealth of Kentucky families,” he said.

Democratic Rep. Arnold Simpson of Covington told Ostrander that “if in fact gaming is a license to prey, we’ve been preyed upon.”

“In close proximity to my home — to my district — lies several casinos, and it’s my understanding that a good many of the good folks from Northern Kentucky travel to Ohio for all the ills that you speak upon and that I concur happens,” Simpson said. “Individuals in my district they don’t understand why we cannot participate at least and harvest some of the taxes that these people are paying. Which are building schools in Indiana and now in Ohio.”

Wednesday’s testimony was just for discussion. Only Simpson commented on what was heard from the opponents to casino gaming. Sen. Dan Seum, R-Louisville, also has proposed gaming legislation in the Senate.


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