Instant Racing Continues to Thrive in KY

Appeals court will hear arguments on legality of new form of wagering.

With an appeals court planning to hear arguments later this month on the legality of Instant Racing, the electronic form of gaming continues to generate significant revenues for Kentucky Downs and the state’s horse industry.

Instant Racing, conceived at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas and introduced at Kentucky Downs in September 2011, has proved popular at both venues. While most of the machines in use in Kentucky are identical to those used in Arkansas, the form of gaming in Kentucky is called “Historical Race” wagering because the outcome of the wager in the machine is based on previously run horse races. The bettor does not know the outcome of the race when placing an Instant Racing wager.

Kentucky Downs reported the $15 million wagered on Instant Racing in March was the best month to date and represented a 19.75% increase over the previous month.

According to records filed with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, since the machines were introduced at the Franklin, Ky., track, a total of $67.8 million has been wagered. Of that, $4.7 million has gone to Kentucky Downs; of that amount, $667,258 has been allocated to purses for Kentucky racing and $47,661 for the Breeders’ Incentive Fund.

With $61,216,443 returned to the bettors, the remaining $1,017,115 has gone to the state of Kentucky. More than half of the state’s portion is being used to fund equine-related activities, such as the Equine Industry Program, Development Fund, and Equine Drug Research. A higher education fund has received $67,808 from Instant Racing and the state’s General Fund has received $237,327.

A breakdown of the March revenues shows $144,462 accruing to purses and $10,319 to the breeders’ fund.

The state has received $225,266, including $52,561 that has gone to the General Fund.

Kentucky Downs is the only track where Instant Wagering is being conducted, although Ellis Park, another small market track, is installing 252 machines that will be operational in June.

Two Thoroughbred tracks located in the larger urban areas of the state—Churchill Downs and Turfway Park—have been reluctant to embrace Instant Racing, at least until the legal challenge has been resolved.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission passed Historical Race rules and regulations and Franklin Circuit Court has deemed Instant Racing legal in Kentucky because the wagers are pooled, with the winnings being paid from the pooled monies. That, according to both the KHRC and court ruling, make it a form of pari-mutuel wagering that is legal under current statutes.

On April 25, the Kentucky Court of Appeals will hear arguments from both sides of the issue in an appeal of the Circuit Court ruling filed by the The Family Foundation. The organization contends Historical Race wagering is illegal because the wagers are placed on separate races which are not live.