When Gov. Steve Beshear leaves office at the end of 2015, the campaign to legalize casinos in Kentucky will lose its highest-profile supporter of the last eight years.

Whoever takes his place could make or break the casino effort. Governors can promote or denounce casinos in their annual State of the Commonwealth speeches. They can marshal the support or opposition of legislators. They can veto bills aimed at legalizing casinos.

Five people have formally entered the race to succeed Beshear as governor. One openly endorses casinos, while two oppose them. Two others won’t say where they stand, only that they would side with the will of the people.

Here’s where the candidates stand:

Matt Bevin – Bevin opposes casinos, said spokeswoman Sarah Durand. “He does not believe casino gambling is a long-term solution for any of Kentucky’s financial problems, so that will not be a priority for his administration.”

James Comer – Campaign director Edwin King would not say if Comer personally supports or opposes casinos, only that he would go along with the majority in a public referendum. Meantime, however, Comer is listed as one of 13 “honorary co-chairs” of Kentucky Wins, an advocacy group in favor of casinos.

Jack Conway – Last July, the Associated Press reported Conway as saying he is “willing to campaign for expanded gambling” and continuing to support legislative measures to rescind the state Constitution’s ban on casinos. Conway also serves as one of the 13 honorary co-chairs of Kentucky Wins. Yet when asked anew if he supports or opposes the legalization of casinos, spokesman Mark Riddle would only say that Conway “supports letting the people vote.”

Hal Heiner – Heiner opposes casinos, according to a statement provided by spokesman Doug Alexander. “I am opposed to legalizing casino gambling in Kentucky and would not work to promote its passage as a constitutional amendment.”

Will T. Scott – Scott endorses the legalization of casinos in Kentucky.

Reporter James McNair can be reached at jmcnair@kycir.org and (502) 815-6543.

This story was reported by Louisville Public Media’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.