Kentucky can license and regulate Instant Racing, a slot-machine type of game where people bet on the outcome of an old horse race without knowing which contest they are betting on, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
Justice Daniel Venters said there wasn’t enough information for the justices to determine if Instant Racing qualifies as a horse race or is illegal gambling. The justices sent the case back to Franklin Circuit Court for more arguments and evidence on that question.
Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration, along with horse track executives, sought the ruling on Instant Racing, which was adopted by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. The Family Foundation of Kentucky argued that Instant Racing does not meet the state’s legal definition of pari-mutuel wagering on horse races. The group also challenged how wagers are pooled, odds calculated and whether the state could collect taxes from the games.
The justices ruled that the Kentucky Department of Revenue lacks the authority to collect excise taxes on wagers placed on the old horse races.
Kentucky defines pari-mutuel racing as customers betting among themselves and not against an association, with the net wagering pool returned to the winning bettors. Kentuckians are allowed to bet on horse racing, bingo, pull-tabs and lotteries, but lawmakers have resisted other forms of gambling.
Beshear, who backs Instant Racing, applauded the decision.
"I’m pleased that overall the Supreme Court has confirmed our belief that it was legal for the Racing Commission to take the actions that it did," Beshear said.
Kentucky Downs in Franklin has Instant Race machines that take in about $18 million to $20 million in wagers per month. Ellis Park takes in about $2 million a month on those machines.
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