Attorney General Andy Beshear’s call on state lawmakers to pass legislation that could lead to the legalization of casino gaming in Kentucky was met with enthusiasm this week by city officials and private citizens working to locate a resort casino near Jenkins.
Beshear this week called on legislators to boost the state’s pension system in the upcoming session by creating a dedicated source of revenue — expanding gaming.
“With 1,000 jobs at stake and the opportunity to anchor tourism for the southeastern Kentucky region, the news of Attorney General Beshear’s request to the legislature to pass expanded gaming is welcome news,” Jenkins Mayor Todd Depriest said.
“This is a step in the right direction for the City of Jenkins, its citizens and schools, southeastern Kentucky, and the entire state of Kentucky,” said James Hibbitts, a founding member of Raven Rock Entertainment, the company that hopes to someday open what would be known as Raven Rock Resort high above Jenkins. “We can rebuild our economy and become a viable economic partner with the rest of the state.”
Beshear said in a news release that approving gambling and dedicating the state’s portion of the proceeds exclusively to the pension system would then free up other sources of state revenue to fund education, fight the drug epidemic and provide health care.
The news of Beshear’s request to lawmakers was also welcomed by Jenkins Independent Schools Supt. Mike Genton.
“It would be a game changer for Jenkins schools by bringing revenue through tax dollars when people move into our area to work,” Genton said.
“As attorney general, I took a stand on public pensions earlier this year after lawmakers turned an 11-page sewer bill into a 291-page pension bill and betrayed our state’s promise to our public servants,” Beshear said. “I ask lawmakers to create a dedicated source of revenue for pensions so we don’t have a pension battle each and every session.”
Beshear’s lawsuit against lawmakers’ 2018 pension bill, Senate Bill 151, is currently before the state Supreme Court.
While lawmakers never released a cost analysis of SB 151, Beshear said a similar pension overhaul, Senate Bill 1, which was defeated in the 2018 session, was reported to add $5 billion in costs to Kentucky Retirement Systems over the next 35 years.
“The solution is not to cut legally promised benefits, but to create a new stream of revenue dedicated solely to pensions that does not raise any Kentuckian’s taxes,” Beshear said. “The answer should be simple — expanded gaming including casino, fantasy sports and sports gaming, as well as preparing for the eventual legalization of online poker.”
Estimates suggest Kentuckians spend over $1 billion of their entertainment dollars in casinos at bordering states, he said.