On Thursday the Supreme Court of Kentucky ruled that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has the authority to license and regulate the operation of pari-mutuel wagering on historical horse races. In its ruling the Court specifically rejected an argument by The Family Foundation of Kentucky that historical racing falls outside the "statutorily-circumscribed parameter of `legitimate horse racing.'” The court added, "… we find nothing in the statutes to suggest that a `legitimate' horse race must be a `live horse race.'”
It was initially reported by media in Kentucky that the Supreme Court's decision was a defeat for racetracks wanting to implement historical wagering, among them The Red Mile. However, The Red Mile's attorneys, and others, saw the ruling as offering a clear decision on the legality of historical racing, said Red Mile president and CEO Joe Costa.
"We have had a meeting with our legal counsel and their conclusion is that this is a positive ruling,” Costa told harnessracing.com. "The single-most important issue was whether or not wagering on historical races in Kentucky is legal in a pari-mutuel format, and the court found that it is. We think it's clear that it is pari-mutuel, and in fact these historical racing machines have been vetted. There is a wagering pool; people are not playing against the house.”
Wagering on historical races has been taking place at Kentucky Downs and Ellis Park and has earned millions for the purse accounts at those tracks, as well as for track operators. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has currently approved 18 separate historical racing gaming machines.
The Supreme Court also ruled that The Family Foundation has the right to question the legality of a game approved by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and should have been granted pre-trial discovery in a prior lawsuit before Franklin County Circuit Court which challenged the premise that historical horse racing was pari-mutuel wagering.
While Kentucky Downs and Ellis Park have been operating historical or "instant” racing machines, the other racetracks in the state--The Red Mile, Churchill Downs, Keeneland and Turfway Park—have waited for the courts to decide on the legality of historical racing before considering adding the machines.
It's no secret the owners and management at The Red Mile have been exploring avenues to keep the track alive in today's competitive gambling environment.
"We've been trying very hard to find ways for the institution to be kept not only alive, but improved,” agreed Costa. "I'm very excited, and optimistic, and our board of directors will be meeting soon to discuss the opportunities this presents.”Click here to read the Supreme Court ruling.—By Kathy Parker