Pro-gaming Kentucky governor appoints key gambling opponent to state judicial post

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear may have figured out a way to remove his biggest legislative roadblock to the state legalizing casinos – appoint him to a new job.

Beshear, a Democrat, recently appointed Republican State Senate President David Williams to an open seat as a circuit judge in southern Kentucky.

In his first public comments after the appointment, Beshear said he appointed the Republican rival to the judicial post because he was the best qualified applicant for the job, not because removing him would improve the chances of legalizing casino gambling in the state.

Williams had blocked Beshear’s top legislative priorities, including a push for Kentucky to add casinos. Neighboring states, including Ohio, have added casinos in recent years. The Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati opens next summer and could draw customers from Kentucky.

Beshear told reporters in Kentucky it's "too early to speculate" on whether Williams' departure will improve the chances of getting the Legislature to pass such a measure.

"I don't think it's any secret that expanded gaming is one of the issues I think should be addressed by the people of this state," Beshear said. "And I'm hopeful we may be able to get a constitutional amendment passed in the upcoming session. I don't really know if we can or not, but it's always on my agenda."

If lawmakers approved a constitutional amendment during the next session, which begins in January, Beshear said it would then be placed on the ballot in 2014 for voters to ratify or reject.

Beshear has a record of appointing Republicans to more lucrative government positions to get them out of the Senate.