he new Oak Grove Racing, Gaming, and Hotel has announced that it is keeping its betting machines going in spite of a recent Supreme Court of Kentucky ruling against the historical horse racing games used by several gaming facilities across the state.
Oak Grove says the Court decision doesn’t apply to them, Clarksville Now reports.
While casino-style gambling is not legal in Kentucky, several facilities make use of pari-mutuel wagering systems based on historical horse race results. This system pits players against one another rather than the house, differentiating the games from those found in traditional casinos.
HHR’s not pari-mutuel wagering, court says
In 2014, the Supreme Court of Kentucky allowed the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to issue licenses for pari-mutuel wagering.
In a reversal of that decision, the court ruled on Sept. 24 that Encore historical horse racing systems (HHR’s) used by several facilities do not qualify as pari-mutuel wagering. The appellant in the case is The Family Trust Foundation of Kentucky, a staunch opponent to gambling in the state.
"For the second time, this case is before this court for consideration of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s regulations as applied to historical horse racing, and, on this occasion, the Franklin Circuit Court’s determination that the Encore system constitutes a ‘pari-mutuel system of wagering’," the court said.
“Because we hold that the Encore system does not create a wagering pool among patrons such that they are wagering among themselves as required for pari-mutuel wagering, the trial court misapplied the applicable regulation as a matter of law. We therefore remand this matter to the Franklin Circuit Court for entry of a judgment consistent with this opinion,” the decision reads.
Governor decries ‘devastating’ decision
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear called the decision “devastating for so many Kentucky jobs,” and for the state’s budget.
"If it’s going to take a legislative change, we need to make the legislative change to keep our horse industry competitive and to keep our commonwealth competitive. Listen, we need a lot more types of gaming to compete with those around us," Beshear said in a press conference after the decision was announced.
Oak Grove will keep its HRMs online
Churchill Downs, owner of Oak Grove Racing, Gaming and Hotel, responded by reassuring fans that they will continue to operate at this time, as the facility’s games do not use the Exacta system referenced in the Court’s reversal.
“We will work within our legal rights and in coordination with Kentucky legislators to ensure the ongoing legal operation of our HRM facilities in Kentucky so that we can continue to provide critical funding for the equine industry and support the citizens in the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Churchill Downs said in a news release.
“Historical Horse Racing is an important part of Kentucky’s economy that supports jobs and contributes over $21 million to the state budget,” Beshear said, according to the Churchill Downs news release. “We are working with various partners to find a path forward.”
Family Trust Foundation responds
Following the decision, the Family Trust Foundation of Kentucky issued a statement thanking the state’s Supreme Court for their decision and promising to continue applying pressure to one of Kentucky’s largest industries.
“The Family Foundation is calling on all horse racing tracks who are engaged in so-called ‘historical horse racing’ to cease operations until it is determined that the gaming being conducted is in conformity with law,” said the group. “We are calling on all horse racing tracks that are running historical racing parlors to cease operations until it can be demonstratively shown that their activities are legal. The time for flouting the law is over.”
Kentucky lawmakers have promised to address the issue soon, though no concrete plan has been presented at this time.
For the time being, Oak Grove Racing’s machines remain in operation and open to the public.