Opponents of Kentucky’s creep toward casino gambling were back in court Wednesday trying to stop instant racing. The controversy over the new type of bet has been in the courts since 2010 when regulations were altered by the Kentucky Racing Commission to allow the wager.
"It's all a shell game,” Stan Cave, attorney for the anti-gambling group, The Family Foundation, told the three judge Kentucky Court of Appeals panel.
"I don't think anybody with a straight face can say that a two by two, three second vignette on a video lottery terminal is a horse race,” Cave added.
Kentucky Downs, in Franklin near Kentucky’s border with Tennessee, was the first horse track to offer the bet in September of last year. Bettors wager on past races from a cache of 21,000 videos. The last three seconds of the race is show on the slot-like machine.
Lawyers for the racing panel and the state’s eight horse tracks claim the wager is on “genuine, legitimate” horse races and it is not a slot machine.
Judge Joseph Lambert noted instant racing is “a far cry” from what you see at Churchill Downs.
Judge Janet Stumbo voiced a concern about the lake of details in the court record about how instant racing works. “There’s nothing in the court record that explains how the odds are set or where the money comes from,” said Stumbo.
The Family Foundation was upbeat after Wednesday’s oral arguments about its chances of disqualifying instant racing. “From my perspective it was smoke and mirrors,” said Kent Ostrander of The Family Foundation. “So, I'm very optimistic and pleased with what we presented today."
But, the horse industry says the new bet is a vital first step to surviving the “siege” from other states on breeder incentives and racing purses.
"Until we are put on a level competitive playing field we feel that instant racing serves as a kind of life preserver,” said Patrick Neely of KEEP, an industry lobbying group.
Judge Sara Combs called the case “interesting” and “important” and said the three judge panel will “take a very hard look” at the issue and make a ruling in four to six weeks.