2018-05-16 / Opinions

It’s a good bet our lawmakers won’t get it right

By JOSEPH GERTH
Louisville Courier Journal

LOUISVILLE

If I were a betting man, I’d say the Kentucky General Assembly will screw this up, too.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that a federal law banning sports betting in most states is unconstitutional.

That could open the door for Kentucky and other states to legalize gambling on things like baseball and basketball and football and to begin collecting tax revenue on something that has been done in every corner bar in Louisville for decades — albeit illegally.

Gambling is here.

Not only at Churchill Downs, where you can drop your whole paycheck on the ponies. And not just at the local Thornton’s gas station, where you can contribute to the state’s revenue with no real hope of ever winning the Powerball.

It’s not just on Tuesday nights at the local Catholic Church or the VFW post when they fire up the bingo machine.

You show me a bar where people go to have a drink and watch sports — and not to pick up a date — and I’ll show you a place you can lay down a bet.

When I was in high school, I knew where I could get a “card” to bet on NFL games.

As I’ve written before, my grandparents had a bookie who would swing by their house every morning with the Daily Racing Form. My grandmother was convicted in a crackdown on bookmakers in the 1970s.

But who really thinks Kentucky’s holier-than-thou legislators will act to capture this source of revenue after they spent the last 20-plus years somehow denying to themselves that gambling exists in Kentucky?

How much money does Kentucky need to send to Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and West Virginia — adjoining states that allow casino gambling — before our legislators here finally realize that their pastor and Churchill Downs don’t get to call all the shots?

We’ve waited so long on casino gambling — there was a small window in the 1990s when gambling exploded — that even if casinos were legalized here now, we wouldn’t see the financial impact that so many states saw 20 years ago.

The market is saturated with states that have casinos — 39 of them allow either commercial or tribal casinos or both.

But now, with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states can allow sports betting, we’re on equal footing with all but Nevada. All Kentucky’s legislators have to do is act quickly.

Yeah. Right.

Don’t bet on it.

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