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Thursday, July 19, 2012

“Instant Racing” Still a Gamble in Kentucky

By W. Stuart Scott

Recently, Kentucky Downs began to allow wagering on historic races at electronic gaming machines. The Kentucky horse industry has long considered itself at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring racing states that allow other forms of wagering. The disadvantage may continue to grow as other states, such as Ohio, have authorized expanded gambling (including authorizing slots at race tracks).

With Kentucky lawmakers unable to agree on proposals which would authorize slot machines at race tracks, Kentucky Downs has sought to rely on existing laws to offer new wagering opportunities for patrons. So-called “instant racing” devices allow players to place wagers on games where the outcome, at least in part, relies on the results of historic horse races. The legal issue turns on whether the instant races are “gambling” or wagering on horse races under Kentucky law.

Bill Flesher, vice president for development at Kentucky Downs, said that instant racing has generated nearly $2 million for purses and breeders’ awards. Kentucky Downs asserts that wagering on historical racing complies with the laws and regulations set out by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

The state disagreed, and a trial occurred in December 2010 before Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate. At the trial’s conclusion, Judge Wingate upheld a proposal allowing tracks to accept pari-mutuel bets on old races. A group entitled The Family Foundation intervened in the lawsuit, seeking to clarify the issue, and the ruling of Judge Wingate was appealed.

On Friday, June 15, 2012, the Kentucky Court of Appeals sent the case back to the trial judge. The 2-1 decision from the appellate court does not expressly prohibit instant racing at Kentucky Downs. Instead, the appellate court sent the case back to the trial judge to allow The Family Foundation of Kentucky and the state to explore issues surrounding the instant race game.

To learn more about “instant racing” in Kentucky, check out the full article in the latest edition of Gaming Legal News.