Decade-old horse racing lawsuit returns to Kentucky Supreme Court

Decade-old horse racing lawsuit returns to Kentucky Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Kentucky is once again hearing the decade-old historical horse racing (HHR) lawsuit, which is expected to determine the fate of the gaming machines in the Bluegrass State.

The Bluegrass State’s apex court previously heard the case and sent the case down to a lower court around six years ago, which ruled that HHR met the definition of pari-mutuel betting. However, a panel of the Supreme Court agreed last year to once again hear arguments on that matter upon the petition of the Family Foundation of Kentucky.

It may be noted here that HHR is also known as instant racing. Actually, HHR machines are slot machine-type video gaming terminals that provide games like video poker. The only difference is that HHR machine displays are based on the upshots of previous races.

The dispute has been going on for around a decade after the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC), racetrack operators and other agencies of the state sought confirmation about the legality of the controversial HHR machines. The lower court’s ruling was challenged by the Family Foundation of Kentucky. The first parlor in the state was opened by Kentucky Downs nine years ago.

One of the several arguments that the Family Foundation of Kentucky has been making is that gaming was expanded without seeking approval of elected officials. Stan Cave, an attorney for the Family Foundation, said that the lawsuit has a ten-year history, and there was a dire need to bring certainty to the question of the legality of HHR.

On the other side, Kentucky Downs’ attorney Jay Ingle argued that the legislature has had ten years to get involved in the matter in case it saw fit.

Speaking on the topic, Ingle said, “The General Assembly as this court knows, pays attention, and if it does not agree that this court’s opinion should be policy, it passes a new statute… If the legislature thought this was bad policy, if they thought historical horse racing terminals should be illegal, they would have said so, and they have not. And their silence speaks volumes.”

Over the past many years, HHR has emerged as a lucrative business in the Bluegrass state. During twelve months through June 30, Kentucky’s four parlors collectedly reported a handle of $2.26 billion, despite the fact that the facilities remained closed for more than a couple of months due to the deadly COVID-19 crisis.