As a Southern Baptist, the issue of expanded gaming has always been a tough one. Anyone else remember Governor Ernie Fletcher’s failed campaign to win re-election? His slogan was literally: “No Casinos!” The idea of casino gambling in the Commonwealth is nothing new. As a matter of fact, it has plagued my own family for years. But before we get to that story, let’s take a look at what others are saying about this issue!
When I approached Anthony Sullivan, a software developer from Iroquois, he was quick to express his feelings on the matter. “I support gaming in Kentucky because I believe that we as a state need to think about new revenue sources other than raising taxes on our citizens or the corporations that provide jobs to Kentuckians.” Sullivan then presented an argument that I quite honestly hadn’t thought about: “Moral opposition to gaming in Kentucky is founded on the idea that we are unable to make our own decisions on where and how to spend our time and money wisely.” Zing! He finished by saying, “We do not need the government or the media telling us private citizens what is best for us.” Now that’s language even the most conservative of lawmakers can sympathize with.
Next, I caught up with Rachael Sinclair, a graphic designer from Lyndon. Her response was simple: “The people who are going to gamble will do it no matter where the casino is. I can’t imagine it would make much of a difference in regards to violence and such, but it WOULD make a difference with the state budget.” Speaking of state money, Rachael suggested that gaming profits could “support future projects similar to the Big Four Bridge or growth at Waterfront Park.”
David Hittle, a Louisville native currently studying Constitutional Law at Liberty University, seemed to have mixed feelings about expanded gaming in Kentucky. Though admitting he visited Southern Indiana’s Horseshoe Casino often, Hittle explained that he feels the horse industry (AKA Churchill Downs) was too involved in the process. “I agree that we must have a conversation about gaming in Kentucky, but not if we’re going to say who can or cannot receive the license or benefits.” He concluded by saying, “I may enjoy racing, but Churchill Downs shouldn’t be the only horse in the race.”
Then came Jonathan Gaby. “I feel that it’s a bad policy for Kentucky to pursue. Governor Beshear championed gaming as a fix to the myriad of fiscal problems, like education funding,” he said. Gaby continued his opposition: “Kentucky’s problems will not be solved by slot machines, poker tables, or the roulette wheel. Real solutions include tax reform, attracting tech businesses, manufacturing, and entrepreneurship.” He even concluded with a piece of advice; “Instead of focusing on slots, Kentucky’s lawmakers should focus on real solutions.”
With all of this said, I find it interesting that not one person I spoke with mentioned Christianity. Again, this subject is tough for any person of faith. Even Senator Dan Seum, who successfully passed the one man-one woman amendment, has received flack for becoming the face of expanded gaming in Frankfort. In my particular denomination of Christianity, gambling is considered a sin. Though, it was Senator Seum himself who recently said: “You know why we call it gaming, right? You see, gambling is a immoral. Gaming? That’s just revenue.” So, let me explain why I support the expansion of gaming in Kentucky.
For me, gaming is personal. For the last fifteen years, my father has worked Security at Churchill Downs. At that time, he was a full-time armed guard who enjoyed health insurance, dental insurance, 401k benefits, and tasks that included guarding former President Jimmy Carter, Rick Pitino, Pat Day, and the list continues. Roughly five years ago, my father was laid off, stripped of his benefits & 401k. After seeking part-time employment at Bellarmine University, my father was eventually hired back to Churchill Downs earning half of his original pay, with absolutely zero benefits. Going from forty-plus hour schedules to sometimes less than twenty, life has become tough. It’s what my now late-50′s diabetic, uninsured father was told when he recently approached his supervisor about working more hours that has decided this issue for me. He kindly explained that Churchill Downs’ has seen a continuous decline in purses, overall profit, and that they were desperate for additional sources of revenue. The truth is, casino gaming could save my father’s job. If casino gaming were to pass, my father would see an increase in hours almost immediately.
Those who know anything about me, typically mock my closeness with Senator Dan Seum. One reason why Dan means what he does to my family is because he was willing to listen to our story. He realizes the struggle that my family has experienced as a result of the decline in profits at Churchill Downs. He felt our pain when he learned that my father no longer has the insurance needed for his diabetic check-ups. As the Senator explained to my mother, “This is about the jobs. I want the jobs. We NEED those jobs.” He’s right!
This is why I support the expansion of gaming in Kentucky.