In making the legislative ‘sausage,’ Ky lawmakers hurt small businesses | Opinion

There’s a saying that people do not want to know “how the sausage is made,” and I’ve learned the hard way that this is true for the halls of our state Capitol.

Recently, the Kentucky Legislature muscled through a dangerous skill game ban bill and our governor promptly signed it into law.

The number one thing we heard from those seeking to ban legal skill games in Kentucky was that the games ought to be regulated. The irony is that we, the Kentucky Merchants and Amusement Coalition, worked directly with Rep. Steven Doan to file a bill that would have done just that. But it simply is not, and never was, really about our games.

Supporters of HB594, the ban bill, often addressed the “elephant in the room” (their words) in committees, by saying banning the games was not about creating a monopoly for Churchill Downs Inc. Yet everything about this issue, from the very start, screams otherwise.

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce explained their support for the ban by saying they never heard any of their members say they support skill games. Well, that’s because skill games are income generators for struggling small businesses – not the big businesses that make up the Chamber’s membership and notably its board (on which Churchill Downs is a member).

The sham organization Kentuckians Against Illegal Gambling, also notably backed by the horse racing industry, stated that this would be the “largest expansion of gambling in Kentucky history” and yet have been eerily silent on a sports wagering bill that is moving through the legislature.

The governor stated that he signed the ban bill because the games need to be regulated, yet he would never publicly support our bill to regulate and tax them.

It’s no secret that the horse racing industry’s ties run deep in this state. I myself live in Lexington, own a business in horse country, and have pride in what has been touted as our state’s signature industry.

But to think our lawmakers would get up in front of hundreds of small business owners, who filled committee rooms and the halls of Frankfort, and pass this bill to the detriment of their own constituents is absolutely shocking.

I can tell you right now that over 450 businesses, KY MAC members, will be impacted by this ban. I can think of no less than 100 that will truly be in jeopardy of closing their doors. Think of all the Kentuckians who may lose their jobs.

Bob Heleringer, one of our KY MAC members, said it best in one of his testimonies. Legislators want to “stick it” to skill game companies for moving into the state. Never mind that in doing so skill games are creating jobs, supporting small businesses, and investing in a state we all so dearly love.

The only folks they are “sticking it to” are Kentucky small businesses.

That is how the sausage is made.

Wes Jackson is president of the Kentucky Merchants and Amusement Coalition (KY MAC).