Historical horse racing has been put on hold at Red Mile Gaming & Racing in Lexington, Kentucky.
The announcement came Sunday, Jan 24, three days after the Kentucky Supreme Court decided not to revisit their previous September ruling.
The ruling stated that certain historical horse racing (HHR) machines do not meet the definition of pari-mutuel wagering.
Without a rehearing, these machines and the industry remain in limbo.
Historical horse racing remains in legal limbo
The historical horse racing machines in question perform similar to slot machines. Games are based off previous horse race results that are hidden to the player.
With pari-mutuel wagering, players make bets among themselves rather than against the house. They wager on a particular race, create a pool, and set the odds.
The winning players split the final prize pool.
For these specific HHR machines, players do not bet against other players at the same time and on the same race.
The Exacta System under question allows players to wager on three randomly selected historical horse races. Once the race concludes, winning players collect against the total monies wagered, minus a 5% operator commission.
The justices ruled this does not meet the definition of pari-mutuel wagering on two grounds:
- The Exacta System machines do not provide wagering on a single event
- The association sets the prize pool, rather than the players themselves
Red Mile and Keeneland release statement
Red Mile and Keeneland operate the machines in conjunction with one other. The companies released a joint statement pertaining to the matter:
“We were disappointed the Kentucky Supreme Court denied our petition for rehearing. At this time, Keeneland and Red Mile have made the very difficult decision to temporarily close historical horse racing operations until there is more clarity surrounding the situation. We have confidence the Kentucky legislature will continue its efforts to protect jobs and state revenue generated by historical horse racing, as well as protect Kentucky’s signature horse racing industry.”
Casino gambling and sports betting are illegal in Kentucky, though pari-mutuel wagering, a form of betting that pertains to horse racing, is legal.
Historical horse racing saw its start in 2011 and generates over $2 billion in yearly revenue. It also employs hundreds of people in the state and is an integral part of the economy.
In total, over 3,500 HHR machines operate in Kentucky.
Churchill Downs’ other HHR facilities – Derby City Gaming, Newport Racing & Gaming and Oak Grove Racing, Gaming & Hotel – will remain open for the time being.
What’s next for HHR in Kentucky
HHR facilities have not been explicitly required to close, but that could change in the future.
Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate is the trial judge in this extensive case.
Since there will be no rehearing, Wingate must now craft an order that aligns with September’s ruling.
No timeline exists for his final assertion. He may first conduct a hearing or take other procedural steps in order to determine a proper course of action.
The directive could force HHR facilities to remove all related machines or else shut their doors.
The potential also exists, however, of legislators passing a bill legalizing all HHR machines in the state once and for all.
Horse industry and gambling proponents in Kentucky are expected to introduce such a bill during this year’s general sessions. Lawmakers have until the end of March when this year’s session ends to approve a new law.
Red Mile reaches out for community support
Meanwhile, Red Mile has resorted to asking patrons for support. In a recent Facebook post, the business urged its customers and all historical racing supporters to reach out to state legislators. The post read:
“In the coming weeks, the Kentucky legislature will reconvene. We are hopeful they will work to protect the jobs and state revenue that Historical Horse Racing has brought to Kentucky over the past 11 years. We sincerely ask you to reach out to your Kentucky legislators to urge them to act.”