March 12, 2010
LEXINGTON, KY— A State Senate committee yesterday held what gambling opponents called a surprise secret meeting in which it approved an expanded gambling measure without hearing testimony from opponents of the bill. "They might as well have done this in the dead of night," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for Say No To Casinos. "This is democracy, casino-style."
As a consequence of the secret meeting, said Cothran, senators voting on the measure were completely unaware of the controversy surrounding whether instant racing is pari-mutuel wagering. Supporters of the bill did not tell the committee that only two months ago, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway issued an attorney general's opinion earlier this year finding that instant racing is not pari-mutuel wagering as its supporters claim.
Cothran, whose group has been the leading opponent of expanded gambling in the state, said he only realized the bill was coming up for consideration when he saw it on the legislature's internal cable channel, but that when he showed up, the room was already filled with gambling industry representatives.
"I'm not upset that I wasn't invited to the party," Cothran said, "but I do wonder why the gambling industry has apparently been given control of the invitation list to committee meetings at our state capitol. In a democracy, everyone should be invited to the public policy table. The result is that we have lawmakers voting on bills without adequate information on the issue."
Cothran said it was clear over the course of the meeting that committee members knew little about what instant racing was and how it worked. "They were asked to vote on the basis of a one-sided description of what instant racing is that made no mention of the controversy over it."
The bill is a House Bill that was amended in a Senate committee, and will be sent back to the House for concurrence. "What you basically have here is a bill on which the opposition will never have been given an opportunity to present its case,” said Cothran. “This is no way to determine public policy in our state."
Cothran said his group believes mechanized gambling in any form is a threat to the long-term health of the horse industry and questions whether instant racing is really a "game of skill" as supporters claim. "Instant racing requires about the same level of skill as it takes to select which slot machine you're going to play," said Cothran.