While most counties in Kentucky are showing signs of disapproval with Gov. Steve Beshear’s proposal to legalize casino gambling, the city of Oak Grove and its residents welcome the idea.

On Feb. 14, Beshear announced the five counties where free-standing casinos would be built if his proposal wins approval with the General Assembly and Kentucky voters. Christian County was one of them.

Mayor Dan Potter has previously said he was aware of one site in Oak Grove that has been considered for a casino. He has also said that if the casino was built in Oak Grove,  he would support it.

Many have also speculated that Oak Grove would be the perfect location in Christian County for a casino because of its proximity to Tennessee and Fort Campbell.

Potter said he would support the casino if the proposal is approved because of the much needed money that it would bring into Oak Grove.

“You’re talking more hotels, more restaurants, more visitors and more attractions,” said Oak Grove Tourism Commission Director Traci Cunningham. “There is such a wide variety of things that could possibly come in.”

Cunningham also said the city would be a great location because it is building up already and would serve as a favorable location to visitors. She cited the amphitheatre that is expected to be completed this fall and a convention center, which is to be completed in 2009.

“The residents here are leaving and going to Illinois (to casinos),” Cunningham said. “Why not keep them here. It’s all about the revenue.”

Cunningham said if the proposal passes, she would spend much of her time advertising the casino in other states in order to draw non-residents into Kentucky to spend their money. She is sure Tennesseans would visit Oak Grove more frequently, since they are already bussing people to Metropolis, Ill. to go to the casino there.

Carol Thorne, an Oak Grove resident, doesn’t ride the bus to Metropolis, she does drive there frequently to visit its casino. A casino in Oak Grove would save her several trips, she said.

“I’m all for it,” Thorne said. “I want a casino here.”

Stephany Campbell, also of Oak Grove, believes a local casino would save people many trips — but not for the same reason Thorne cited.

A casino would bring many jobs to Oak Grove and many locals wouldn’t have to drive as far as they do now, often to Nashville, Tenn. or Hopkinsville, to their jobs, she said.

Revenue is the overriding factor in Oak Grove’s support for a casino.

“The town could do a lot,” Thorne said. “It could make buildings better, build a library and improve the school system instead of bussing (high school students) to Hopkinsville like they do now.”

Although Clarksville, Tenn. resident Larry Brace, whose family has managed a casino in French Lick, Ind. for several years, agrees that a casino would help Oak Grove’s economy, he isn’t sure the town could handle such a large change.

“It’d bring money, but they can’t support it,” Brace said. “They have to get their water and electric from Hopkinsville. I think it’d be too expensive for them.”

JULIA HUNTER can be reached at 887-3262 or by e-mail at jhunter@kentuckynewera.com.

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