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Gambling Battle

The Gambling Battle for Governor of Kentucky




In November 2023, Kentucky held its gubernatorial election, which pinned Andy Beshear, the Incumbent Democratic governor, against Daniel Cameron, the Republican state attorney general. The race was won by Beshear, who attained re-election by winning 52.53% of the vote, in an election that saw the best performance by a Democrat since 2011 and the worst by a Republican. However, it wasn’t the race that generated nationwide media attention as much as the monetary contributions both parties received to back specific interests. Notably, heavy gambling interests put big money on the election.

According to the available data, in 2023, Kentucky’s horse race tracks gave sizeable funds to the Democratic Governors Association (DGA), which forked over around $19 million to back Andy Beshear’s win. Per uncovered IRS reports, the DGA received $50,000 from Revolutionary Racing Kentucky, $200,000 from Kentucky Downs, and a quarter of a million dollars from Churchill Downs in the latter half of 2023. That said, Daniel Cameron’s campaign also got a gambling fund boost, as it was revealed that the Republican candidate obtained $362,000 in contributions through the Republican Governors Association (RGA) from Georgia-based gaming machine manufacturer Pace-O-Matic in 2023 to fuel Cameron’s $12 million bid for governor.

Thankfully, both the RGA and DGA must disclose their expenses and donors to the IRS, which supplies the public with much-needed transparency regarding whose interests governor candidates will seek to look out for. Aside from gambling entities, both Cameron and Beshear noted backing from energy, health, and financial companies. Nonetheless, the gambling total came to somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million, an impressive sum.

Differing Gambling Interests in Kentucky

As noted above, Kentucky horse race tracks supported Beshear’s second term by providing considerable donations to his campaign. That happened primarily because Beshear legalized sports betting in the state. The bill he passed allowed tracks to open retail lounges that accept wagers on sporting events. Thus, in September 2023, the Governor was the first to place a bet on an athletic competition in Kentucky. He laid a $20 parlay on two home-state college teams at the Churchill Downs track, citing this is the type of entertainment Kentuckians have been looking for for years. He added that allowing this activity will only boost local tourism and make people stay in Kentucky and not flee for Vegas once the NCAA March Madness tournament rolls around.


It should be said that once, the state’s multiple tracks, Cumberland Run, Ellis Park Racing & Gaming, Red Mile Racing & Gaming, Turfway Park Racing & Gaming, Oak Grove Racing & Gaming, Churchill Downs, and Sandy’s Racing & Gaming, established their brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, they also began exploring possibilities branching off into other types of gambling.

So, on one side, the Democrats got chiefly backed by the tracks in Kentucky. And the Republicans got aid from Pace-O-Matic, a company whose twenty-five hundred Burning Barrel games got shut down in June 2023, on the claim that they violated Kentucky law, which does not allow games of chance, even though Pace-O-Matic classifies them as ones of skill, citing that their nature does not cause any conflict with the state’s legislature.

Still, the manufacturer’s machines, widely available across the commonwealth at gas stations and bars, got disabled. That occurred by the rule of law from Governor Beshear, who signed the bill that banned them, proclaiming they feature no regulation, bring in zero in taxation, and only exist to take away hard-earned dollars from Kentuckians. However, venue owners throughout the state have rebelled against the move, stating that these machines help keep them in business, as the money they receive from hosting them is enough to cover their utility bills.

Hence, from everything explained above, it is clear that Beshear is interested in keeping his supporters happy by eliminating their gambling competitors, who looked to back someone else to take his place and change the laws to their benefit.

The Online Casino Situation in Kentucky

While Internet sports wagering is booming in the US, the same cannot be said of interactive gaming, as only seven US states have chosen to permit such gambling sites. Kentucky is not among them, as KY online casinos cannot be run from within the state’s borders. That said, for years, residents have been able to use internationally-regulated platforms based in foreign lands for game-of-chance fun.


Proposed lawsuits filed in Kentucky’s Eastern District in August of 2023 have raised eyebrows regarding whether this entertainment form is still available to Kentucky’s citizens due to a Lawrenceburg resident, Billi Jo Woods, suing Bovada and Bodog (Morris Mohawk Gaming Group), reputable offshore operators for violating state gambling law.

In the proposed suit, Woods alleged she had lost substantial amounts of money gambling at Bovada/Bodog-operated hubs and is calling about a 19th-century law that declares that Kentuckians can file legal actions against operators who they believe have unlawfully taken funds from them. The grounds for Woods’ suit is that the Morris Mohawk Gaming Group offers online casino gaming to the state’s citizens despite the state not legalizing this activity. Few believe this action will produce meaningful results for Woods, as loads of Kentuckians still use offshore platforms to satisfy their gaming needs.