Kentucky Senate OKs Hub, Other Industry Provisions

The Kentucky Senate March 26 passed three-prong legislation that authorizes creation of an international wagering hub, paves the way for live Quarter Horse racing, and gives Standardbred racetracks a tax break.

The measure is believed to have the support of the House of Representatives.

"This is an excellent legislative package that will help grow jobs and economic opportunities for the Thoroughbred, Standardbred, and Quarter Horse industries in Kentucky," Republican Sen. Damon Thayer said. "It will help ensure that Kentucky remains the horse capital of the world. It has wide bipartisan support, and my hope is that the House will concur with the bill as amended."

If it does, it would be considered somewhat of a victory for the racing industry in the face of the demise of casino legislation during the current session. For the third straight year, the industry has been unable to garner legislative support for alternative gaming despite rapidly increasing competition from other states that are bolstering their racing and breeding programs.

The international hub, similar to one in Oregon that supports account wagering, wouldn't be taxed under the Kentucky legislation. Wagers made through the hub would be considered as having been made in Kentucky, and a licensee would be permitted to operate the system "independently or in association with one or more racetracks licensed to run live racing and pari-mutuel wagering" in the state.

Kentucky's Thoroughbred tracks are prominently featured on the TV Games Network, which has an account-betting operation that hubs in Oregon. Churchill Downs Inc. has said it may consider creating an account-wagering arm of its business in the future.

The bill also has a provision to allow artificially inseminated horses to compete in Kentucky. The Red Mile, a harness track, is scheduled to offer live Quarter Horse racing in July, and the rule was needed to be on the books for live racing to commence. Quarter Horses, Arabians, and Appaloosas can be bred via AI, but Thoroughbreds cannot. Standardbred rules already are in place.

The Red Mile initiated Quarter Horse simulcasting in January, and also held an exhibition race. It has been more than 10 years since a live Quarter Horse race was held in Kentucky.

Finally, the bill would eliminate an excise tax on harness tracks and funnel the money to promote and support live racing operations. Kentucky has three harness tracks: The Red Mile, Bluegrass Downs, and Thunder Ridge Raceway.