Instant Racing Could Begin Before Ruling

Changes to permit new wager going through regulatory process.

An attorney for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission said it is possible the state’s racetracks could be approved to offer a form of “Instant Racing” before the state’s Court of Appeals rules on its legality.

Tim West, assistant general counsel for the KHRC, said changes in administrative regulations that would permit tracks to offer “historical race” wagering are working their way through the regulatory process and if all went according to schedule the regulations could be in place by July 1.

Modeled after the successful Instant Racing concept at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, bettors make wagers on video replays of previously run races, called ”historical races” in Kentucky. The KHRC and tracks have joined together to seek a legal opinion on whether historical race wagering is permissible by changing the administrative regulations and the Court of Appeals is considering the case. A Circuit Court judge has already ruled that historical race wagering is permissable under current law if KHRC adopts the necessary regulatory changes.

While that is pending, the administrative regulation changes needed to allow historical race wagering cleared one legislative subcommittee and will be assigned to another by the Legislative Research Commission. Once the second subcommittee gets the proposed regulations, they have 30 days in which to consider them or they will automatically be in effect.

Once the regulations have been approved, West said tracks wanting to offer the new form of wagering would apply to the commission as they would for any other type of exotic wagering they would want to offer. Historical race wagering would be allowed for all three types of racing licensed in Kentucky—Thoroughbred, Standardbred, and Quarter Horse.

West said, however, that tracks that decided to go ahead and accept bets and show the historical races would be taking a risk by investing in the historical race wagering equipment before there is an Appeals Court decision.

Kent Ostrander, executive director of the Family Foundation, which is arguing that Instant Racing is an illegal form of expanded gambling, said racetrack operators are taking a big risk if they proceed with purchasing machines and having them installed without clear legal authority.

"We are quite confident that we will prevail in court," Ostrander said. "I think it is quite interesting, in this case, that it is the tracks that are doing the gambling."

Ostrander also said he is concerned any sort of premature implementation of alternative gaming would give Kentucky horsemen false hope.

"Even in the regulations there is no delineation regarding where the funds go," Ostrander said. "We are interested in seeing the horse industry succeeding here but just not on the backs of human beings who are losing."

West declined to speculate on how many tracks would seek to implement historical racing before getting the court’s ruling.

“My guess is that some would and some would not,” West said.