Senate President makes his case about expanded gambling, answers questions


by Joe Arnold

Posted on February 25, 2010 at 1:11 AM

Updated Thursday, Feb 25 at 10:37 AM

(WHAS11)  Kentucky Senate President David Williams (R-Burkesville), says he expects an eventual statewide vote on expanded gambling, but warns that the cost of slot machines at racetracks would far outweigh any benefits.  And, Williams says he has sworn off personally gambling at casinos after concluding that casinos have "unbridled greed" that would have an "invasive and destructive" effect in Kentucky.

Williams, as leader of the Republican Senate that has blocked expanded gaming,  is perceived as the chief opponent of expanded gambling.  Despite dire warnings about what will happen to Kentucky's horse industry if slot machines are not allowed at racetracks, the General Assembly is not even talking about the idea.

"The way you make more money if you're in the gambling business, is you're getting slot machines," Williams said.

It's not that he doesn't understand why Churchill Downs and other racetracks want expanded gambling, "but the problem is where does the money come from?" Williams then answered his own question, "That money comes from somebody's milk money, somebody's child support, someody's rent. somebody's tuition."

And, Williams also warns that slot machines could diminish horce racing.

"All over the country you find the number of racing days diminishing, the amount of handle diminishing when people get slot machines, supposedly so they can supplement the purses,"  Williams said.

Williams says because Kentuckians are inundated with predatory gambling messages from Indiana casinos, they assume that expanded gambling is inevitable.  Yet he says Governor Steve Beshear's revenue projections would require a "very large" and dangerous expansion of gaming.

"People wouldn't have the inconvenience of having to cross the river and drive down the road if it was right there on the bus line, right in the neighborhoods where the poorest of the poor have access to it, there would be an extremely higher incidence of gambling and gambling related problems in the city of Louisville,"  Williams said.

"Even on the racetrack if it was there, the folks on the backside who already have tremendous financial difficulties would be put into extremely difficult circumstances and the folks that are in the greatest poverty in Jefferson County live in South Louisville urban area and in West Louisville.  And I just don't see how anyone can think it would be a good idea of putting the crack cocaine of gambling right down there,"  Williams continued.

In June, 2009, the Kentucky House passed a bill to allow slots at racetracks.  But on the Senate side where Williams reigns, the bill died in committee. Instead, Williams proposed using some lottery proceeds to help increase purses and breeder awards. 
Despite Governor Steve Beshear now saying that a constitutional amendment is not needed to expand gambling and it would take too long, Williams now says it's likely that Kentuckians will ultimately decide the issue.

"I think there probably are the votes in the General Assembly now to put it on the ballot if the racetracks would quit trying to push their incessant attempt to get a deal that's too good,"  Williams said.

"It was disgraceful the amount that they were going to pay for these gambling licenses, totally undervalued,"  Williams argued, "then they were going to advance some of the money back and after five years, the license fees were going to be over.  I mean, that's ludicrous."

And, Williams is still fuming after what he once called a coup d'état attempt last year by Governor Steve Beshear whose appointments of Republican Senators Charlie Borders and Dan Kelly to lucrative state positions created vacancies followed by contentious special elections.  Gambling interests spent one and a half million dollars in the special elections that followed.

"I've just seen the ugly side of it as far as this political situation and the willingness for people who have been friends of mine forever in the horse business to turn and become enemies, vitriolic enemies, say anything in the world about you because they want that money," Williams said.

One of the things said about Williams is "hypocrite," because the crusader against expanded gambling was known himself for frequenting casinos.

"I have been to casinos in the past," Williams volunteered, "but I will tell you that I failed at that juncture in my life to connect the unbridled greed that these companies have.  And I will tell you that I haven't been to a casino in a long time."

How long has it been?

"A year, two years, a couple years at least, Williams said.

is that a conscious decison or it just happened that he didn't have opportuity?

"No, I've made a conscious decision that I do not want to contribute money or i do not want to contribute my stamp of approval to an activity that has been so invasive and destrctive unto the body politic," Williams said.