Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Beshear governing by silly emotional appeal

Here is Gov. Steve Beshear's latest plea for turning the state over to casino gambling interests:

"I don't want Kentucky to be known as the former horse capital of the world. Too much is at stake - 100,000 jobs, comprised mostly of working families, and $4 billion in economic impact. We must act quickly to ensure that we maintain that investment in our state."

First, it's silly to say Kentucky's horse industry can only survive by being allowed to diversify into a business that is currently illegal in order to subsidize their less profitable main operations. Why can it only be casinos or slot machines? If they just need money, why not license tracks to set up check cashing services? Dry cleaning services are often very profitable. Maybe Churchill Downs could launder a couple of your shirts and clean one of your suits while you watch a few races. Or they could send insurance agents into the grandstand to write a few policies for a new, ongoing revenue stream to beef up purses and improve profitability. Or sell used cars or new electronic equipment.

And who is Gov. Steve Beshear to say the 100,000 jobs and $4 billion economic impact of the horse industry wouldn't be replaced by something even more lucrative if horse racing faded out? Four months into the Obama Administration, I get pretty nervous when I hear a politician say "we must act quickly to maintain..."

I'm as sympathetic as anyone for those who just want to compete on an even playing field with horse tracks in casino states. But trusting Gov. Steve Beshear and House Speaker Greg Stumbo to put together a regulatory structure that won't wind up hurting the state more than it helps is just not something I'm comfortable doing.

I'm open to considering a well-conceived proposal, but I get more skeptical when the sales pitch is as emotional as this one has been.