We gamble all the time. When it comes to our politics, some individuals can’t accept, realize or are unwilling to acknowledge they’ve have been dealt a bad hand.
But some are fully aware.
Kentucky is among a handful of states that has no interest in casino gambling or sports betting even though it’s the mecca of horse racing, exactas and trifectas.
A Republican-led state legislature refuses to budge on this hot-button issue that can bring in millions of revenue to help with the massive pension problem in the Bluegrass.
It would be a small dent, of course, but any assistance right now would help the state tread water after drowning in its own financial troubles for over a decade.
The irony here is Frankfort has engaged in gambling — with your pension dollars — for many years. Government officials have raided the retirement fund, treating it like a piggy bank. The Kentucky Retirement Systems Board decided to put the fate of the fund into the hands of risky hedge fund managers.
It’s a bad beat that our teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public employees do not deserve. These individuals gave a portion of their hard-earned paychecks because they’re given a guarantee by the state of a financially sound future.
Governors and lawmakers, in both parties, did not recommend nor did the legislature appropriate the money necessary to fund the pension, each taking its turn kicking the proverbial can down the road since 2000.
Regardless of your convictions or beliefs against casino gambling, it would be a welcomed addition to a state strapped for cash. Opponents have claimed their objections based on religion, harm to families or an individual’s mental health. All are concerning issues, but they have nothing to do with gambling itself.
It’s about trying to influence others based on your personal beliefs. You should applaud people who stand up for their convictions but not when they are attempting to sway others in believing the same ideals.
Casinos and sports betting are thriving in Kentucky’s surrounding states. Indiana raked in $35.2 million at just 10 sportsbooks alone in September, its first month of existence. That’s $813,000 in extra tax revenue in 30 days without factoring the impact of casino wagering.
Farther south in a slightly different scenario, casino tax revenue has funded new building and infrastructure projects and as well as constructing and renovating area high schools in the state of Mississippi.
Casinos offer hundreds of new jobs — complete with full benefits — and will boost tourism in Kentucky. It seems a little hypocritical to embrace the Commonwealth cathedrals known as horse tracks and the millions of gambling dollars they rake in daily. No one seems to be stemming alcohol abuse when hyping the best bourbon in the world.
Churchill Downs have installed 900 “instant and historical racing machines” at its Derby City Gaming. Call these what they are: the horse-racing version of slot machines. According the Courier-Journal, these machines brought in $1 billion, yes billion, at three different racetracks in 2017. But they are controlled by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission so most of the tax revenue goes back to the horse industry.
It appears there are equine exceptions when it comes to gambling.
The return on this investment has a far greater meaning. It would show that the lawmakers of this great state are willing to try everything to fulfill the promise to the teachers and first responders that a full pension will be waiting for them in retirement after a career of faithful and important service.
Gov. Matt Bevin has no interest in fulfilling that promise. He acknowledges the problem but wants these public employees to take some of the burden they had no hand in creating.
Instead, he resorts to name-calling and fear-mongering from his bully pulpit. He’s called teachers thugs, incompetent and short-sided and has showed no remorse in doing so. He’s attempted to insinuate that teachers are responsible for sexual assault and school violence before walking it back.
You’re attempting to hamper their retirement and you call them selfish?
These individuals teach and mold our young kids, protect our communities and help us out of harm’s way. The General Assembly gambled with the future of our education system when they attempted to rush through a new plan attached to a wastewater treatment bill in a matter of hours last year.
Bevin, a former hedge fund manager, would rather choose to cut and run on teachers, decrease current pensions, have employed teachers contribute more and give new teachers a cost-sharing plan.
Kentucky deserves better. Bevin believes he is saving the system because the current one is insolvent. We owe a huge debt to our teachers and public employees, one that they shouldn’t be required to pay back. The obligation should not fall on them.
It resembles what we currently see in Washington: Divisive politics spewed from the venom and vitriol of our Commander in Chief.
President Donald Trump resorts to insult-laced tirades when speaking to the American people and on Twitter, buddies up to world dictators and feels it’s perfectly OK for foreign countries to meddle in our elections.
We should be debating issues, but we should want our politicians to work for all of us not the ones who get them reelected. Our teachers and public employers have earned the right not to have their financial outlook taken away from them; not to be shamed by governors.
No one deserves to be called “human scum” from the leader of their own party for disagreeing or not showing their undying loyalty to their president.
These kinds of politicians, lawmakers and public servants are gambling with our democracy, our national security and how we define common decency.
Will we be better with another four years of Bevin and Trump?
Don’t bet on it.
MATTHEW SPARKS is a guest columnist and former The Daily Independent contributor.