Someone is again polling Kentucky voters on the question of expanded gambling in the wake of Gov. Steve Beshear’s call for allowing voters to decide the issue in his Tuesday inaugural speech.
Lowell Grubb, 49, of Manchester said he received a call Tuesday evening from a woman who asked him “35 to 40 questions” about his feelings on expanded gambling. Grubb said the woman wouldn’t identify the polling firm or its client but said she told him she was calling from Washington, D.C.
“They wanted to know what I thought about casino gambling,” said Grubb, a registered Republican. “They asked if an individual senator or representative voted for it, would that make me more or less likely to vote for that individual.”
Some other questions Grubb answered were:
• When was the last time he attended a horse racing event;
• Had he ever attended an event at Churchill Downs;
• How he feels about money spent on gambling from Kentucky residents going to other states;
• If the money were devoted to education and health issues, would that affect his position on gambling;
• How did he evaluate the job performance of Beshear;
• What is his party registration;
• How he voted in the last presidential election?
“They asked me a lot about the horse industry and I told them the horse industry doesn’t have a lot of impact on us in this area,” Grubb said. “They also asked how important coal is in this area.”
But no one will own up to being behind the poll. The state’s two largest horse tracks didn’t comment while the chairmen of the two major political parties, the executive director of the Kentucky Equine Education Project, and Beshear’s press spokeswoman all said they knew nothing about the polling.
Brett Hale, senior vice president for Corporate and Government Relations for Churchill Downs was out of town and unavailable for comment.
“We’re not going to comment,” said Julie Balog, director of communications for Keeneland.
Patrick Neely of KEEP, which has lobbied for expanded gambling to boost purses and breeding incentives, said his organization isn’t behind the polling.
“KEEP has not decided if we are going to poll in the short term,” Neely said. “Based on the public polling, our past polling and the bits and pieces we pick up from other polls, we continue to be very confident that a large majority of Kentuckians support expanded gaming and an even larger majority supports putting the issue on the ballot.”
Most polling has indicated voters want to decide the question themselves, even those who say they oppose expanded gambling. In 2007 Beshear campaigned on a promise to offer voters that chance but his proposed amendment couldn’t pass the Democratic-controlled House. He later got behind a bill which would have authorized slots at horse tracks – without a constitutional amendment – but that bill died in the Republican-controlled Senate after winning House passage.
David Williams, R-Burkesville, who is Senate President and who lost to Beshear in this year’s governor’s election, has said there may be enough votes in the Senate to pass a constitutional amendment, depending on how it is worded.
Michael Goins, spokesman for the House Republican leadership, said House Republicans are getting feedback “from both those for and against the issue. They are ready to vote on this, they want to get this issue behind us, one way or another.”
On Tuesday, Beshear said he has concluded a constitutional amendment has the best chance of passing because he thinks more lawmakers are “comfortable” with that approach.
But Kerri Richardson, spokeswoman for Beshear, said late Wednesday that Beshear hasn’t conducted any polling on the question and Daniel Logsdon, chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party, said KDP hasn’t either.
“We’re not doing any polling right now,” said Steve Robertson, chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky. He said he hadn’t heard of any polling and didn’t know who might be behind the calls.