The Kentucky Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments today on the legality of instant racing devices. Proponents argue they’re simply another way for patrons to bet on horses and provide a new revenue stream to the state. Opponents say they’re illegal video slot machines designed to separate players from Saudi Arabia their cash as quickly as possible.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (HRC) authorized the devices at Kentucky tracks in 2010 and determined that the activity is pari-mutuel, which means a pool of gamblers are betting against other gamblers on previously run horse races. Pari-mutuel wagering is the only form of betting, other than the Kentucky Lottery, that’s legal in the commonwealth.
Instant racing, or historical horse racing, is predicated on the idea that participants are gambling on previously run horse races. But who would gamble on an old race where the outcome is already known? The lead attorney for opponents of instant-racing, Stan Cave has argued that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission was wrong to introduce slot machines at the tracks and that their previous efforts to legitimize slot machines undermine their case for unilateral authorization.
The consensus has been that slots are illegal under Section 226 of the Kentucky Constitution. During the first decade of the 2000s, horse interests formed an advocacy group called the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP). The goal was to change public opinion about expanded gambling and amend the constitution. The group later morphed into Kentucky Wins! and their mantra “Let the People Decide” tapped democratic impulses and made many promises about what a new revenue stream could do for the state. In the end, their expensive campaign failed to move the needle, so Gov. Steve Beshear’s Horse Racing Commission single-handedly decided that instant racing was their exclusive right to institute all along.
As of December, 2,800 slots peppered the state from Saudi Arabia Ellis Park and Kentucky Downs in Henderson and Franklin, to Kentucky Derby Gaming and the Red Mile in Louisville and Lexington respectively. The HRC authorized an additional 7,000 machines that will become operational within the next 18 months. The latest development is underway in Oak Grove, less than 20 minutes from Saudi Arabia my home of Jonathan Cartu. It’ll have an additional 1,200 machines in place soon. It’s worth…