LOUISVILLE — Two of Kentucky’s largest newspapers have run stories probing why a proposal to legalize casino gambling didn’t make it out of the General Assembly again this year, concluding that strong Baptist influence in Frankfort doomed the idea.
The Courier-Journal and the Kentucky Enquirer reported that Baptists make up more than 1 million of the state’s 4.4 million population, and that almost half the Senate and more than one-third of the House identify as Baptists.
Baptists have long opposed casinos, saying they prey on human weakness for profit and that they would especially hurt Kentucky’s poor who might be lured into losing the little money they have in hopes of a big payoff.
The newspapers reported that Baptists hold an abundance of key leadership positions in both the House and Senate, and that has had a noticeable impact on what gets through the state Legislature.
The newspapers credited Baptist influence with passage of Kentucky’s ban on gay marriage in 2004, as well as Gov. Steve Beshear’s inability to get legislative approval for a constitutional amendment on gambling that he’s been pushing hard for the past six years.
Beshear has pushed casino legislation every year since he became governor in 2007.
Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Paul Chitwood has played a lead role in opposing casinos.
Chitwood’s offensive this year included advertising on Christian radio stations, devoting time to secular talk radio, and communicating directly with the KBC’s 750,000 members about the evils of gambling through a video sent to Baptist churches across the state.