Kentucky Downs Sept. 1 officially became the first racetrack in the state to operate expanded pari-mutuel wagering in the form of Instant Racing machines.
According to reports, a few dozen patrons were on hand when the 200-machine Instant Racing parlor opened at 10 a.m. CDT. Kentucky Downs president Corey Johnsen said the track opted for a “soft” opening and wouldn’t make any judgments on the level of play for at least the first few weeks.
Kentucky Downs opens Sept. 10 for a four-day all-turf meet.
Johnsen called the launch of Instant Racing a “historic moment” for Kentucky horse racing and breeding, which has taken competitive hits from states that allow other forms of gambling at racetracks. Instant Racing doesn’t generate near the revenue produced by video lottery terminals or slot machines, but Kentucky racing officials have said it could offer some relief.
Instant Racing machines resemble VLTs but are pari-mutuel in nature because the money wagered is pooled unlike a slot machine. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approved new pari-mutuel regulations for Instant Racing, which the state Attorney General’s office last year said was in fact pari-mutuel.
The Family Foundation of Kentucky, a public policy group, earlier appealed a state court ruling that said Instant Racing is legal under Kentucky Law. The Kentucky Court of Appeals has not yet issued a ruling.
No other racetracks in the state have applied for an Instant Racing license, though several plan to when the legal challenge is resolved.
On Aug. 30 one racing industry representative said there was some concern a court injunction would be sought to halt the launch of Instant Racing, but nothing materialized Sept. 1.