Expanded Gaming? No thanks,Governor.

So, working late(-ish) last night, I drove home listening to the dulcet tones of Governor Steve Beshear delivering his annual State of the Commonwealth speech.

I've long held Beshear to be a dichotomy:  He's a moderate, reasonable with genuine communication and leadership ability who has a folksy, drawling twang that drives me bonkers.  Though he sounds like a character from Hee-Haw, he's been genuinely good for the state, surmounting two scandalous previous administrations and noted egomaniac Senate President David Williams.  Beshear has both the common touch of a well-meaning Grandfather, and the business administration sense of a decent CEO.

And...yet...

He has a somewhat benign but pernicious fatal flaw:  He won't let go of Casino-style gaming for Kentucky.  It reared its head again as a "stinger" at the very end of his speech before the closing.

Again this session I will ask you to place a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot related to expanded gaming. 
Over the years several economic studies of various gaming scenarios have projected potential Kentucky tax revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars. 
But regardless of the amount, allowing gaming is a way to keep Kentucky tax revenue at home – instead of letting Kentuckians' entertainment dollars fund roads and schools in Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia and other states.  
Now I realize there are many arguments for and against gaming. 
But there's no reason to deny the people of Kentucky an opportunity to vote “up” or “down” on this issue. 
They want to vote on this issue, and we should let them decide whether to continue allowing Kentucky tax money to flow across our borders or to keep it here at home. 
From a utilitarian perspective, one cannot argue with his logic:  We need revenue, and Kentuckians  travel to other states to game, to those states' benefit.

I am not a utilitarian.  My central belief is that gaming is wrong, and certifying and encouraging it at a state level is blood money.  Casino-style gaming is institutionalized fleecing of a population.  Aside from card-counting at blackjack, no casino game is winnable in the long-term.  People are exchanging their money for a hit of dopamine that comes from "winning," and far too few quit while they're ahead.   Gaming has been shown to be addictive, and the societal costs of the secondary and tertiary effects of gaming will eventually outweigh whatever meager income boost in the short term:  Desperate, strung-out gamblers destroying their careers, families, and themselves, with impacts to our educational, penal, and social support systems.

Just like the games themselves, gaming is a loser in the long-run.  In places it's a demonstrated "win" like Las Vegas, various Native American Reservations, etc., the key component is "visiting" gamblers.  People come, gamble away, then leave, and the purveyors of the gaming don't have to deal with the fallout.  Once gaming comes to Kentucky, I assure you, the fallout will sicken us all.

One can rationalize all the above away easily enough:  People do it any way.  We do it already in the form of horse racing and off-track betting, how is this any different?  Kentucky makes tremendous revenue from 'sin' pursuits like Bourbon, Horse Racing, and (illicit) marijuana cultivation.   All the above is simple bandwagon fallacy, strawmen to distract from the central issues that haven't changed in 7 years, and won't change for 700 more.  I consider gaming on its own merits, and find it wanting from both moral and practical perspectives.

Lastly, consider "The Lottery."  Wallace Wilkinson ran on a platform of bringing the lottery to Kentucky in the 1980's.  He succeeded, but to what effect?  As is the case throughout the nation, middle and lower-class people play the lottery in vain hope of "hitting it big," and improving their circumstances.  That is, it's a demonstrated regressive tax on that segment of society that can't help itself.  Simple math will show that those $2 lottery tickets invested over time have a much better result for all concerned.  However, that bell rung nearly 30 years ago cannot be unrung today, and here we endure with The Lottery.  I implore you to avoid the same mistake here with Casino Gambling.

So, Mr. Beshear, I use the above to dispute your position:  "There's no reason to deny the people of Kentucky an opportunity to vote...on this issue."   Yes, there is.  We elect leaders like you, sir, because you demonstrate the qualities of wisdom and leadership needed in a Republican Democracy.  Simple civics reminds us that our forebears didn't set this Commonwealth (nor this country) up as a pure democracy wherein the minority would suffer at the whim of the mob.

Plainly, just because "The People Want Something," does not imply you give it to them.  Our own citizens have also wanted Slavery, Nullification, Secession, and Segregation, but our leaders (eventually) transcended those desires of the moment to discern what was right.

I call on both my representatives, Damon Thayer and Ryan Quarles to rise above utilitarian philosophy and hold the line on this, as has been the case throughout the current administration.




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