Ky. Baptist leader condemns expanded gambling

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A Kentucky Baptist leader warns that casinos would “prey on the most vulnerable” as his organization launched a radio ad aimed at stirring grassroots opposition to expanded gambling.

The ad, featuring the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s executive director, comes as expanded gambling supporters push a proposed ballot measure that would let Kentucky voters decide whether to legalize casinos.

“I’m a hunter, but Kentucky lawmakers should not be issuing ‘hunting licenses’ that allow casino operators to prey on the most vulnerable among us,” the KBC leader, Paul Chitwood, said in the ad.

The 60-second spot will air on several Christian radio stations for a week, starting Wednesday, according to the state Baptist Convention, which has 750,000 members. The KBC called it a modest ad buy.

Chitwood urges listeners to press their lawmakers to oppose expanded gambling.

It’s part of the group’s two-fold campaign against casinos. Chitwood also is featured in a video being sent to churches across the state. In the video, he warns that “where gambling is legalized, misery follows.”

He said it’s the first time he’s known the KBC to use an ad to spread its word against expanded gambling.

“This issue keeps coming up year after year, and it’s time that the Christian majority in this state rises up and says ‘enough is enough,’” Chitwood said.

Kentucky has a long history of wagering on horses but the Bible-belt state has resisted casinos.

Supporters of legalizing casinos point to expanded gambling as the best option to generate new revenues needed to meet the state’s funding needs.

A House committee held two hearings on the issue this month but hasn’t voted on gambling proposals.

House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, is sponsoring two casino-related measures.

One is a proposed constitutional amendment that would let voters decide if they want to make casinos legal. A companion bill specifies how many casinos would be allowed, how the industry would be regulated and how the state’s share of revenue would be distributed.

Clark’s plan would allow up to eight casinos statewide, including five run by racetracks.

He says the state would eventually take in an estimated $286 million in yearly casino-related tax revenues. Under his plan, half the amount would go to education. Licensing fees granted to casino operators would generate at least $50 million more for the state for each casino at the outset.

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