KY Lawmaker Pushes for Instant Racing Opinion
by Tom LaMarra
Date Posted: 12/16/2009 4:24:37 PM
Last Updated: 12/18/2009 3:24:43 PM

Instant Racing machines like the one pictured, are in use at Oaklawn Park.
Photo: File Photo

A Kentucky lawmaker has again requested an opinion from the state attorney general as to whether Instant Racing machines are legal under pari-mutuel statutes.

Republican Sen. Damon Thayer requested the opinion in April of this year, and again in June. He sent another letter to Attorney General Jack Conway Dec. 15 inquiring about the status of the opinion.

Instant Racing, currently in use in Arkansas, is considered pari-mutuel in that state because the outcome of games is based on recycled horse and dog races. The actual machines, however, closely resemble video lottery terminals.

Arkansas racetracks also have “electronic games of skill” that aren’t pari-mutuel in nature. They aren’t permitted to have standard slot machines.

Thayer had proposed Instant Racing as a way to contribute money to purses at Kentucky tracks. Oaklawn Park in Arkansas has steadily increased purses the past 10 years because of revenue from Instant Racing and the games of skill.

At Oaklawn, 14% of Instant Racing revenue goes to horsemen for purses.

Thayer said he will introduce legislation during the 2010 General Assembly session calling for a constitutional amendment on racetrack VLTs. With the state facing a $1-billion budget shortfall beginning in July, there’s a chance legislation calling for statutory approval of VLTs could resurface as well in January.

Thayer said Dec. 14 he also plans to pursue “short-term” measures that could generate money for purses and breeders’ incentives. One of those is Instant Racing which, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader, was discussed by the Kentucky Equine Education Project board of directors at its Dec. 14 meeting.

In a June 19 letter to Thayer, Conway said the opinion was delayed because of an impending special session of the state legislature at which a bill to authorize racetrack VLTs died in a Senate committee. Conway had earlier issued an opinion that racetrack VLTs don’t require a constitutional amendment.

The letter said because of budgetary constraints, the opinion could take at least 180 days. An opinion on Instant Racing was expected in October.

Instant Racing has had starts and stops in Oregon and Wyoming. In Wyoming, the state Supreme Court ruled the machines illegal. Other states, including Ohio and Virginia, have sought Instant Racing legislation with no success thus far.

Oaklawn, in the small city of Hot Springs, has found success with Instant Racing even though it only had about 350 machines through early 2009; the number is now about 500. Many racetracks with regular VLTs or slots have thousands of gaming devices; Charles Town Races & Slots in West Virginia, for example, has 5,000 VLTs.

The machines are called VLTs—even though they operate like slots and are advertised as such—because they fall under the auspices of state lotteries.



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