To glassy-eyed legislators eager to balance their budgets without raising taxes or cutting spending on roads, schools, and other services, the prospect of voluntary taxation from gambling glitters like the spinning tassels on a stripper.
From the evidence of the many states embracing casino gambling as a “revenue source,” this approach to raising taxes is an idea that legislators have fallen in love with.
Yet this is a forbidden love and full of immorality. The anti-gambling crowd want to kill gambling, and the people who are aiding the anti-gambling organizations are agitating the dissatisfied legislators and businesses who won’t get a license to make some money off expanded gaming.
Anyway, I’m hearing that the anti-gambling push is coming from at least two directions (religion and dissatisfied businesses or cities) and that the goal is either to kill the legislation or to transmogrify it to the point that nobody with sense will vote for it. Either way, the anti-gambling crowd wins.
Frankly, the only reason I favor casinos (rather than tolerate them) is that horse breeders and racetracks need to get something in return for giving away part of their gaming franchise. Racetracks and gamblers and farms and horse owners and the hundreds of businesses that serve all these have paid untold millions in taxes to the Commonwealth over the decades, and part of the reason for this heavy taxation was an effective monopoly on legal gambling. Yet Kentucky politicians took away a portion of the monopoly 25 years ago with the lottery, and racing got a handful of pee.
If the result is the same here, the horse “bidness” is leaving Kentucky. “Yeah, right,” many will say. But it could happen virtually overnight with a single rule change from the Jockey Club. And if Kentucky decides it is too good to be the center of Thoroughbred breeding, then the hundreds of millions of dollars that siphon through that business ought to leave for a friendlier area.
Despite my regard for Kentucky, we have reached a crossroads that could radically alter the place.