Fleecing our own is no way to prosperity

Slots would help Churchill's owners, hurt Kentuckians

October 28, 2013 

  • At issue: Oct. 9 commentary by Jonathan Blue, Ed Glasscock and Terry McBrayer,"Expand gambling to enable Ky. to prosper"

When I read the headline, "Expand gambling to enable Kentucky to prosper," I thought it was the stupidest thing I ever read.

But the accompanying commentary reflects the headline. It tries to make that very point: that a glut of slot machines will improve roads, fund pensions, improve schools and create jobs. Everything but everlasting life will result.

Then I looked at the authors, attorneys Terry McBrayer and Eddie Glasscock, the new co-chairmen of something called KentuckyWins.com, formed to promote casinos. Now, everyone knows that McBrayer and Glasscock are not dumb, so why would they sign on to such nonsense? On investigation, I found that McBrayer is the chief Frankfort legislative lobbyist for Churchill Downs, Glasscock was until recently its lawyer and Churchill Downs would be the biggest beneficiary of expanded gambling.

Under the bill pushed by House Speaker Greg Stumbo four years ago, Churchill Downs would have received in the neighborhood of $400 million a year from the nine casinos proposed at racetracks across the commonwealth. Even to the big Chicago syndicate that owns 72 percent of the common stock of Churchill Downs, $400 million a year ain't chump change.

I also found that "KentuckyWins.com" is an online domain name owned by Churchill Downs. In short, Churchill owns McBrayer and Glasscock's organization. The old Kentucky saying, "Whose bread I eat, his song I sing" applies here.

The reason the commentary appeared now is because in January at the plenary session of the General Assembly, the tracks and Gov. Steve Beshear, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Republican Sen. Damon Thayer are going to again try to get legislation either by constitutional amendment or statute to legalize slots at the racetracks.

The Stumbo bill, as said, would have authorized slots, at existing racetracks. The Legislative Research Commission in Frankfort estimated that those machines would yield more than $800 million in annual gambling losses by Kentuckians, one of the poorest populations in America.

This would have been good for Churchill; over half would have gone to them, but bad for unemployed coal miners, children of meth addicts and unemployed minority youths in our cities, among others. The Stumbo bill would have allocated only one quarter of the gambling losses to the treasury of the commonwealth, less than enough to cover the likely Medicaid shortfalls under the new health care law, much less build roads, pay pensions and create Utopia.

In short, the argument goes: Kentuckians are losing massive amounts of money to out-of-state gambling venues. Some of that might be happening, but there is no persuasive evidence that has ever been presented to indicate that the leakage is enough to warrant imposing casinos and almost a billion dollars in losses or that the money that would result would solve all of Kentucky's problems.

Many people believe this, but a lie believed is still a lie.


At issue: Oct. 9 commentary by Jonathan Blue, Ed Glasscock and Terry McBrayer,"Expand gambling to enable Ky. to prosper"

Lawrence E. Forgy, a Lexington attorney and former gubernatorial candidate, has long advocated against expanded gambling.

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