KY Tracks Wait-and-See on Instant Racing

Instant Racing regulations in Kentucky could become effective July 1.

Regulations governing Instant Racing in Kentucky apparently will be on the books July 1, but there won’t be a rush by racetracks to move forward on implementing the games that resemble video lottery terminals but are considered pari-mutuel in nature.

The regulations were approved by a legislative subcommittee in May and sent to the joint Licensing and Occupations Subcommittee in early June. With the subcommittee not scheduled to meet the week of June 26, the regulations would take effect after 30 days, or July 1, Kentucky Horse Racing Commission officials said.

The regulations fall under the KHRC because they are pari-mutuel. A Kentucky Circuit Court already has ruled Instant Racing is legal after an inquiry by the KHRC, eight racetracks, and the state Department of Revenue, but the state Court of Appeals has not yet issued its ruling. The Family Foundation of Kentucky had appealed the circuit court ruling.

Racetracks must apply to the KHRC for a license to operate Instant Racing games, the payoffs for which rely on previously run races. Currently, the machines are operating only in Arkansas.

Only one track—Kentucky Downs—has announced its intent to move ahead with the games as soon as possible. Corey Johnsen, president of the southern Kentucky track and also chairman of the Kentucky Equine Education Project, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment June 28.

Others are reluctant to do so because of the ongoing appeals process.

“While other Kentucky racetracks may elect to move ahead with (historical racing machines) without waiting for the courts to make a definite ruling on the issue, given the potential capital investment required, we do not intend to proceed until we are certain we can legally operate (the machines) in Kentucky,” said Julie Koenig Loignon, vice president of corporate communications for Churchill Downs Inc.

“At this time Keeneland does not anticipate moving forward with Instant Racing until the legal process has reached its final conclusion,” said Julie Balog, director of communications for Keeneland.

Turfway Park also has indicated it won’t move ahead with Instant Racing until the Court of Appeals issues a ruling.

Ellis Park owner Ron Geary told media in Western Kentucky the week of June 19 he believes the machines could be operating by this fall or early next year, but he, too, mentioned the risks involved with taking action before the court rules.

KEEP executive director Patrick Neely said it’s up to the discretion of each racetrack whether it holds off or moves forward. KEEP was instrumental in getting the regulations through the regulatory process in 2010.