by Frank Angst and Tom LaMarra
Two Lexington racetracks are expected to apply for licenses to operate historical race wagering machines when the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission meets April 2.
Several industry sources and officials said March 14 that Keeneland and The Red Mile, a nearby Standardbred track, most likely will be on the agenda for the meeting.
Details of the plans weren't divulged, but Keeneland vice president and chief operating officer Vince Gabbert said the track "has been looking at several opportunities" and likely would present ideas at an upcoming KHRC meeting. Gabbert said he couldn't confirm a definitive project involving Instant Racing, which currently is operating at Ellis Park and Kentucky Downs.
Sources, however, said Keeneland could construct a standalone facility on its property that would house the historical racing machines and full-card simulcasting. They also said The Red Mile, located downtown, could embark on a major renovation of its facility to accommodate the machines.
The tracks are said to be analyzing data and have inquired about the licensing process. Though Keeneland and The Red Mile have had an unofficial deal to partner on a facility should casino-style gambling be legalized in Kentucky, they plan to house their own Instant Racing machines.
Though the Kentucky House of Representatives March 12 passed legislation authorizing a pari-mutuel tax on revenue from Instant Racing, it remains to be seen whether the Senate will act accordingly because of problematic language and pending legal issues.
The state Supreme Court recently ruled that the KHRC had the authority to promulgate regulations for the devices, but it also said the Kentucky Department of Revenue can't tax the form of betting because existing statute pertains only to "live" racing in the state.
The case has been sent back to circuit court for discovery. The high court's actions, however, didn't halt existing operations at Ellis Park and Kentucky Downs.