New poll: Most Kentuckians support slots


by Joe Arnold

Posted on February 3, 2010 at 7:00 AM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 3 at 1:02 AM

The majority of Kentucky voters want slot machines at Kentucky racetracks.  That's the result of a new WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass poll.

Click here for the complete poll results

Without the revenue from video gambling machines, Governor Steve Beshear (D), who campaigned for expanded gaming, says Kentucky will have to make deep and painful budget cuts.

"Beggars can't be choosers right now,"  said Louisville resident David Vowels, "The state is hurting."

"Put them there," added Lacey Smith in Louisville's Highlands neighborhood, "Put the slot machines there because they're going across the river and playing slots anyhow."

By a 3-2 margin, Kentucky voters support slots at racetracks in the WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass poll. 

59% Support
37% Oppose
4%  Not Sure

"I hope that the poll results will be looked at very hard by our General Assembly," said Beshear.  "They need to understand that, particularly during this time of short revenues, that this would be an excellent place to be able to gain some additional revenues that would support our efforts in education and other areas."

Support in the poll comes from the biggest population centers, Northern Kentucky and Louisville, which are also home to Kentucky's two biggest race tracks, Turfway Park and Churchill Downs.

"Seems like one kind of gambling is the same as another to me," said Dave Averdick of Louisville, who added that he was not sure if he supported slots at racetracks.

While Louisville voters back slots at racetracks 63 percent to 34 percent, Eastern Kentucky is the only region of the Bluegrass where the majority of voters are opposed, 51 percent to  48 percent.

Western Kentucky
52% Support
40% Oppose
9%  Not Sure

63% Support
34% Oppose
3%  Not Sure

North Central Kentucky
66% Support
30% Oppose
4%  Not Sure

Eastern Kentucky
48% Support
51% Oppose
1%  Not Sure

The poll, conducted by Survey USA, has a margin of sampling error: +/-4%.

Slots supporters have not been able to win over the magic number of twenty state senators in the Republican controlled senate.  And, despite Senate President David Williams' (R-Burkesville) opposition two years ago to a constitutional amendment being placed on the ballot, he now says an amendment proposed by Sen. Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) should be allowed to go forward.  It would allow Video Lottery Terminals (VLT's) in counties that have racetracks, but not necessarily at the racetracks themselves.   

"They're just for delaying. That's all that is," Beshear said, dismissing the Republican proposal. "and we can't afford the delay right now.  we need to step up now and not only save our horse industry but save our budget."

An overwhelming majority, 85 percent of the 617 registered voters polled, say voters and not the General Assembly should decide.

And Beshear said a two-step process to bring VLT's to some counties would add an even longer delay.

"If the general public understood that we need the money right now and that we would not even get money from a vote on a constitutional amendment until a year and a half from now, then they might well have a different opinion,"  Beshear said.

"I think the people should decide," said Louisvile's Sandy Delph, "It's their choice if they want to spend their money recklessly or not."

Louisville's Clay Kennedy agreed.

"By popular vote," Kennedy said, "I think that's the fairest way to do it."

"I understand that," Beshear said, "But I'm sure that most voters don't also understand the dire situation that we find ourselves in."