Ashland resident asks hard questions on gambling issue

The letter below was penned by Dave Williams, an Ashland resident and a close Christian friend of mine who is asking informed questions about the potential dangers of gambling coming into the community.

Dave is a bulldog and a watchdog, looking over the Ashland and Boyd County community with the best of intentions and trying to keep it the family friendly community we all remember. He only wants what is best for the future of his children and yours. He researches and asks questions, which is what everybody needs to be doing when culture shifts like this are hurriedly put into place.

Dave has provided links from legitimate sources, including one from Danville, Virginia, a community just a little bigger than here, and the impact casinos had on them. It’s not all fun and games. Gambling can and has ruined lives and wrecked families. Nothing this impactful on a community should be done in such a hurried fashion. That’s not in anybody’s best interest whether you support or oppose the issue.

Take the time to read this thoughtful and informative letter. You will be better prepared to understand what is truly at stake. And let your voice be heard.

Dave isn’t on social media (yet) so I’m putting this out there because, even though I’m no longer a resident of Ashland, it will always be home to me. I support Dave, who is running as a candidate for City Commission in Ashland this fall, 100 percent. He’s ringing the warning bells on gambling. Hopefully people will start listening. It can happen before you blink.

Here’s the letter:

Dear Boyd County residents,

This week Judge Eric Chaney and our three elected commissioners (Larry Brown, Randy Stapleton and Keith Watts) voted to approve beginning lease negotiations with Revolutionary Racing, based in Boston, Massachusetts, to lease the old Sears building at Camp Landing to open a gaming casino with 400 HHR,  Historic Horse Racing Wagering Terminals (aka SLOT MACHINES). 

The proposed lease was first read on May 10 and read a second time two days later on May 12 during an emergency meeting called by Judge Chaney. The quick rush to implement gambling into our community seems unimaginable, but it truly happened. Both meetings were filmed and posted to the Boyd County Fiscal Court Facebook page, if you want to confirm. 

The Fiscal Court repeatedly stated the second vote on May 12 was just to start the process of negotiating a lease and allow Revolutionary Racing to begin applying for a license to operate a horse track in Boyd County, and not a final approval. Fiscal Court was asked to have future public meetings in the evening when residents can all attend, but no assurance was given.

Concerned citizens voiced opposition at the May 12 meeting about social issues like crime, social cost associated with gambling addiction, and potential drug use, to name a few. We know the data from a 20-year-old clinical study that examined gambling’s impact on behavior within a community raises questions and concerns not being considered by the Fiscal Court. Refer to the link to access the 1999 University of Chicago report.  

A similar community in Danville, Virginia referenced this clinical study to determine the impact a potential casino would have on residents. Counties with casinos attributed 8% of their crime directly to the casino, noting 765 property crimes and 50 violent crimes per 100,000 people annually. Complicating crime data is the fact casinos provide 24-hour security to internally handle criminal complaints. Do we honestly think Boyd County will be immune to the escalated crime and drug issues sweeping our nation if gambling is approved?

Danville’s report also noted the entire county would see 2,200 gambling behavior addictions among its 60,000 population that would cost $3.2 million in social cost annually. 

Boyd County is close in population to the Danville / Pittsylvania County area so it’s easy to think similar risks are a possibility here, too. Keep in mind this data is 20 years old and likely underestimates the real risk. The attached link below details Danville’s report that each resident was made aware of before voting for gambling.

What is the economic benefit for Boyd County if the casino is approved?  Revolutionary Racing is committed to spending $50 million for this project. How much is for land acquisition? With building cost increasing at a record level, is it fair to question what kind of horse track can be build for $50 million? Will it be a smaller track for quarter horse racing for now to open the new gaming emporium inside the Sears building?  What kind of jobs will Boyd Could see from such a project? Will it be lower-wage jobs that are not family sustainable? We know Kentucky has one of the lowest tax rates for slot machines and therefore can be attractive to gambling corporations with only 8% tax rate going into Kentucky’s General Fund.  

The attached article from the Kentucky Center of Economic Policy clearly shows how little Kentucky receives from HHR (slot machines) and makes one question how much local government taxes would be?

“Churchill Downs, which owns about half of the HHR facilities, already pays much higher tax rates on its slot machines in other states. It owns two casinos in Pennsylvania which has a 55% tax rate; a casino in Ohio with a 33% rate; one in Illinois with a graduated rate up to 50%; another in Florida with its 35% rate; one in Maryland with a rate of 40%-61%; one in Maine where the rate is 39%-46%; and one in Louisiana where the rate is 21.5%-35%. But in Kentucky it pays only 8% to the state’s General Fund.”

We need County Commissioners that promote better understanding of this issue before approving gambling leases. We need transparency so citizens know all the facts and risk before moving forward. No four-person Fiscal Court should have sole authority to change our community and neighboring counties in such a way without a vote. 

The first opportunity to show your concern comes in Tuesday’s primary where the District 1 commissioner seat is up for grabs. Make an informed choice. My vote will be going to Joseph Blair, a fair man who will look out for the community.

We must understand the issues surrounding gambling and move forward as a majority of 45,000 and not four.

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