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Ky. Supreme Court won’t have rehearing on historical horse racing

The Kentucky Supreme Court has denied a motion for a rehearing on their decision issued last fall that stated historical horse racing is not pari-mutuel wagering and is therefore illegal under state law, ending a decade-long legal battle.

Last September, the justices issued an opinion written by Justice Laurance VanMeter. Five of the six other justices agreed with the opinion. It stated, “Because we hold that the Encore system does not create a wagering pool among patrons such that they are wagering among themselves as required for pari-mutuel wagering, the trial court misapplied the applicable regulation as a matter of law.”

In a separate opinion, Justice Michelle Keller ultimately agreed with the outcome of the majority.

This was the second time the High Court addressed the issue.

In 2014, they ruled that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission had the legal authority to license pari-mutuel wagering on historical horse racing but sent the case back to the trial court to determine whether instant racing constitutes the unauthorized expansion of gambling in violation of Kentucky law.

The Franklin Circuit Court decided that the instant racing machines, even though they looked and operated in many ways like slot machines, met the definition of pari-mutuel wagering and were thus authorized under Kentucky law.

That was overturned by the Supreme Court and returned to Franklin Circuit Court in September, “for entry of a judgment consistent with this opinion.”

Stan Cave, attorney for The Family Foundation, which filed the suit, said at the time of the September ruling, “I’m appreciative of the Supreme Court’s 7-0 decision. It’s time for the tracks to stop until the law is determined by the General Assembly and not a state agency.”

Gov. Andy Beshear said about the opinion, “Historical Horse Racing is an important part of Kentucky’s economy that supports jobs and contributes over $21 million to the state budget. We are working with various partners to find a path forward.”

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, Kentucky Department of Revenue, and the facilities offering historical horse racing sought a re-hearing, but that was denied by the Justices, 6-0, on Thursday. Justice Robert Conley, who joined the Court this month, did not participate.

Thus far, no legislation has been introduced for the 2021 legislative session dealing with the issue.*

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