Here’s How Kentucky GOP Governor Candidates Feel About Gambling

Posted on May 25, 2023

Kentucky GOP governor candidates met for a debate in Louisville earlier this spring.

Since the debate, the Kentucky gambling landscape changed. Sports betting in Kentucky became legal after Gov. Andy Beshear signed legislation allowing retail and online betting. Furthermore, the legislature signed a bill banning gray machines in the state.

Still, it’s worth noting how some Republican candidates spoke about expanded gambling.

Somerset Mayor Alan Keck, Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and Attorney General Daniel Cameron took the stage in March to tackle the topic.

All four Kentucky GOP candidates are in favor of sports gambling

The candidates supported the industry even before Beshear signed the sports wagering legislation.

Keck’s voice was the loudest on the subject.

Prior to Kentucky signing off on sports betting, he thought it was “egregious” that there would be horse betting in Kentucky but no sports gambling.

“To me, it is hypocritical at best, egregious at worst, that we can celebrate the Derby, which I do,” he said at the March debate. “And we can fund education through the lottery, which I think is tremendous, and you can’t put five bucks on UK-Louisville.”

Kentucky GOP candidates hesitant about casino gambling

Where Keck did back off in his stance, however, was casino gambling.

“We’ve got to be careful they don’t turn into black holes,” he told other media outlets.

Quarles indicated he was against casino gaming, too.

Candidates opposed gray machines in Kentucky

Gray machines were a hot topic during this year’s legislative session.

They’re not slot machines and Kentucky banned them earlier this year. But they’re somewhat similar in that a player will push a button or pull a level. Where things get into murky waters — or a gray territory — is that these games technically require skill.

Quarles shared an anecdote in his hometown. According to him, one convenience store near his house replaced shelves offering soft drinks and food and replaced them with gray machines.

According to him, they’re much too inviting for teenagers.

Quarles took the issue up with Cameron.

“I sometimes wonder why the attorney general has not looked into the legality of these right now, over the past year since it’s proliferated,” he said.

Shortly following the debate, the Kentucky General Assembly passed HB 594, which banned these gray machines.

There’s currently a lawsuit challenging the gray machine ban.

Kentucky’s Republican candidates for governor

Kentucky’s 2023 gubernatorial election takes place on Nov. 7, later this year. There are 12 Republican candidates running for Kentucky governor:

  • Daniel Cameron
  • Ryan Quarles
  • Kelly Knight Craft
  • Eric Deters
  • Mike Harmon
  • Alan Keck
  • David Cooper
  • Jacob Clark
  • Robbie Smith
  • Bob DeVore
  • Johnny Ray Rice
  • Dennis Ray Ormerod

The current governor is expanded gambling’s biggest proponent

So much so that the Democrat governor is pushing for a fast-tracked sports wagering launch before the NFL season kicks off in September. Under Beshear’s guidance, nine horse racetracks and Kentucky Speedway are eligible for sports betting licenses.

Beshear’s push for expanded gambling isn’t just a 2023 move. His promises to expand the industry started in 2019. Even in 2020, he was vocal in pushing lawmakers to pass an internet gambling bill.

“After years of urging lawmakers to legalize sports betting, we finally did it!” he tweeted earlier this spring.

Beshear’s latest push, however, is to make sure the state’s sports betting industry launches so bettors can wager on football.

“I would really like to have it ahead of that first NFL game, knowing that is a big date for people,” he told reporters last month.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a staff writer for PlayKentucky. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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