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Opponents of Expanded Gaming in Kentucky Claim Election Victories

Anti-gambling forces were heartened by an election that ousted a handful of legislative incumbents who had voted for failed casino and slots bills in recent years.

"The odds against expanded gambling in Kentucky just got steeper," said Martin Cothran, a policy analyst for The Family Foundation. "It looks to us like we picked up votes in both the state Senate and state House."

Gov. Steve Beshear has been pressing for casino-style gambling in Kentucky since he was first elected in 2007, but, so far, has been unable to get lawmakers to pass legislation. The closest he came was in 2009, when a divided House approved a bill that would have allowed horse tracks to bring in slot machines. The Senate refused to go along and the bill died.

Voters in western Kentucky ousted Democratic state Sen. Joey Pendleton, who favored putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot for voters to decide the issue, and replaced him with Republican Whitney Westerfield, who campaigned on a promise to oppose gambling. Westerfield said the costs to families and communities outweigh the revenue that gambling would bring into the state.

Democratic state Reps. Teddy Edmonds, of Jackson, and Linda Belcher, of Shepherdsville, both of whom voted for a 2009 slots proposal, lost their re-election bids.

Democratic Rep. Royce Adams, of Dry Ridge, and Republican Rep. Lonnie Napier, who voted for the slots measure three years ago, didn't seek re-election.

And former Democratic state Rep. Fred Nesler, of Mayfield, who had voted for the slots measure, was replaced by anti-gambling Republican Richard Heath of Mayfield. Nesler resigned earlier this year to take a job in the Department of Agriculture, so Heath takes office this month.

Beshear said last week he would like for the legislature to pass a constitutional amendment in the next session to allow casino-style gambling in Kentucky. If lawmakers approved such an amendment during the session, which begins in January, it then would be put on the ballot for voters to ratify or reject.

In Kentucky, gambling has evolved largely as a partisan issue with Republican lawmakers leading the opposition.

Republicans had a strong showing overall in Tuesday's election. Two new GOP congressmen were elected and three incumbents were re-elected. That leaves only one Democratic incumbent serving in Kentucky's federal delegation.

Kentucky voters also threw their support to Republican Mitt Romney in the presidential race, snubbing Democrat Barack Obama yet again. Obama lost the state in the 2008 primary and general elections.

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