Kentucky Lawmakers Determined to Keep Historical Horse Racing Betting

Horse racetrack operators in Kentucky are placing their hopes on state legislators to preserve their vital revenue from historical racing slot-like betting machines, as the Senate is preparing to consider new legislation.

Fresh from the Session Start

Upon resumption of the 2021 session next Tuesday, Rep. Sen. John Schickel intends to introduce the new legislative measure, which will be co-sponsored by Senate President Robert Stivers. Two days later, the bill is set to be assessed in the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee, chaired by Schickel.

The passing of the bill remains the last opportunity for operators of horse racetracks following the Supreme Court decision in September that some slot-like historical horse racing operations at racetrack gambling parlors may not be legal since they do not meet the requirement for pari-mutuel wagering.

The Supreme Court stated that the slot-like machines do not create a wagering pool among players and the latter do not bet among themselves, a key requirement for any gambling operation to be considered as pari-mutuel wagering. Judges also unanimously reversed the 2018 Franklin Circuit Court’s approval of the gaming system, ruling that the lower court had applied the wrong standard.

Later on, the court was asked to reconsider but a rehearing of the case was denied, leaving the fate of the machines in the hands of lawmakers which are now seeking to keep the vital source of revenue as for the operators, so for the state, by putting the historical races gambling machines on legal ground.

Uncertainty Takes Its Toll

Due to the Supreme Court ruling and its refusal to rehear the case, Keeneland and Red Mile, co-operators of historical horse racing machines at Lexington, decided to temporarily suspend operations “until there is more clarity surrounding the situation”.

Slot-style historical horse racing machines, which accept wagers on randomly generated horse races from the past, showing a condensed video from the race, have become an important source of revenue for racetracks, providing funds to support breeding and make the state’s venues competitive with tracks and horse breeding operations in other states.

According to bill sponsor Schickel, the legislative measure would seek to keep the historical horse racing operations in tact, maintain the jobs for Kentucky residents the racetrack operations provide, as well as the revenue the state collects as tax, so that the industry remains competitive.

Republicans dominate both House and the Senate but one conservative group, The Family Foundation, would oppose the upcoming legislative attempt to preserve historical racing operations.

The Family Foundation, which has long opposed any forms of gambling expansion, including historical racing machines, stating they do not meet legal standards, claims these machines drain money from poor Kentuckians to fill the pockets of the industry.

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