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Frankfort Local News

Court of Appeals Hears Instant Racing Arguments

A decision is expected within six weeks over whether Instant Racing is legal in Kentucky. The state’s Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case today.

Instant Racing is a slots-like game that Kentucky racetracks hope to use to boost race purses. But the Family Foundation of Kentucky says the game isn’t pari-mutuel betting like horse racing, but instead is closer to a slot machine.

Foundation executive director Kent Ostrander says based on questions from the appeals judge, he believes the case will go back to square one.

“If the rule of law still presides in Kentucky I feel we’ll have a favorable outcome. Whether that a full reversal or remanded down to the circuit court,” he says.

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Local News

Ellis Park Moves Ahead With Instant Racing

Ellis Park in Henderson has won approval to become the second Kentucky racetrack to move ahead with expanded gambling.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission unanimously approved the plan Monday in Lexington.

Ellis Park plans to install around 250 instant racing machines on the ground floor of its clubhouse building in early 2012.

The game is already being played at Kentucky Downs in Franklin. In September, that track became the first in the state to offer the game, which involves wagering on past horse races.

In a case before the Kentucky Court of Appeals, the Family Foundation of Kentucky argues that the game constitutes illegal gambling. A lower court ruled last year that the game is legal.

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Local News

AG Asked To Halt Instant Racing Games

By Stu Johnson, Kentucky Public Radio

The Family Foundation of Kentucky says the state attorney general should move to shut down Instant Racing machines at a southern Kentucky track.

Kentucky Downs began offering the gambling devices several weeks ago. Instant Racing allows participants to bet on previously run, anonymous horse races. The Family Foundation’s Kent Ostrander delivered a letter to Attorney General Jack Conway today, asking him to shut the machines down.

“They’re not pari-mutuel. It’s not horse racing. But the fact that, in statute, the reel machines are strictly prohibited, that alone would be enough to scuttle this until the court has time to fully decide at the appellate level…sometime in January or February or March,” he said.

Next month, an appeals court is expected to consider an injunction aimed at shutting down the slot machines until it can make a formal ruling on their legality. A spokeswoman for the state attorney general says the office doesn’t intervene in matters that are pending before the courts.

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State of the News

Today on State of the News

Segment A: The WFPL news staff has analysis of the stories they covered this week – including Erica Peterson on today’s breaking news that the Obama Administration has announced that it’s withdrawing a proposal to strengthen the nation’s ozone standard.

Segment B: WFPL’s Phillip M. Bailey and the Counrier-Journal’s Joe Gerth take a look at the stories surrounding Kentucky’s gubernatorial election.

Segment C: We’ll talk to the C-J’s Gregory Hall about instant racing at Kentucky Downs, which started this week. Then we’ll talk about LEO’s cover story on a local case of art fraud, with reporter Cary Stemle.

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Local News

Horse Racing Commission Approves Instant Racing at Kentucky Downs

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has approved the first expanded gambling games at a state horse track.

Kentucky Downs in western Kentucky wants to implement the game in which gamblers bet on old horse races without names of the horses, jockeys and trainers using slot-like devices. The game is known as Instant Racing at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, where it has been a strong moneymaker since it began a decade ago.

Kentucky Downs President Corey Johnsen said the track plans to invest $3 million and hire 85 workers to implement the game. The commission approved the request by a voice vote with no opposition.

The devices could possibly be in operation when the Franklin track near the Tennessee border begins its meet Sept. 10.

From the Associated Press

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Local News Politics

Kentucky Supreme Court to Wait to Hear Instant Racing Arguments

The Kentucky Supreme Court will wait to hear a case testing the legality of Instant Racing.

In December, Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate ruled the state can regulate Instant Racing, or electronic wagering on previously-run horse races.

The Family Foundation, which opposes expansion of gambling in Kentucky, appealed the decision directly to the state Supreme Court.

But the high court, which is refusing direct transfer, wants the case heard first by the state Court of Appeals.

Kentucky’s eight horse tracks hope to use proceeds from Instant Racing to boost race day purses.

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Local News Politics

Legal Challenges May Delay Instant Racing At Horse Tracks

Anti-gambling groups are planning to appeal Wednesday’s ruling in Franklin Circuit Court upholding the legality of Instant Racing at Kentucky horse tracks. The groups say the practice of wagering on races that have already been run is similar to playing slot machines.

Thoroughbred Times news editor Ed DeRosa says Instant Racing is not the same as slot machine gambling, but it is similar. The results are not completely random, but there’s not enough information available for experienced handicappers to use traditional horse race wagering strategies.

Despite those differences, DeRosa says if Instant Racing passes final legal muster, slot machines will likely be next.

“I can’t speak for the tracks, they haven’t said this, but my personal feeling is that this is the gateway drug. That they’re hoping legislators and constituents in Kentucky see that expanding gaming can work at race tracks.”

DeRosa says tracks that benefit from Instant Racing will likely use their success to lobby for slot machines and other casino-style gambling to be legalized in Kentucky

“They’d be able to say, ‘Well, look, we’re contributing x percent more to the state than we did. Look at what more we could contribute with actual casino-style slot machines,'” he says.

DeRosa says tracks will likely wait until the case is settled before investing in Instant Racing technology. Churchill Downs may wait even longer, he says, due to its success with traditional racing and its proximity to casinos in Indiana.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Judge Upholds Instant Racing Regulations

A judge in Frankfort has upheld the legality of regulations that allow wagering at Kentucky horse tracks on rebroadcasts of old races.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approved the Instant Racing regulations in July in an effort to give the industry a financial boost.

The idea has drawn opposition from anti-gambling groups such as the Family Foundation. The group’s Martin Cothran contends Instant Racing wagering is not the same as pari-mutuel betting allowed under Kentucky law.

“This ruling basically says you can have live racing with dead horses,” Cothran said.

Wednesday’s ruling came in a suit filed in Franklin Circuit Court by horse tracks and regulators testing the legality of the regulations.

Cothran’s Family Foundation was allowed to intervene in the suit. He says the ruling by Judge Thomas Wingate will be appealed.

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In-Depth News Next Louisville Politics

Instant Racing Debate Moves To Lexington

The Red Mile, a standardbred horse track in Lexington, was the site of Kentucky’s second public hearing on Instant Racing.

Audio MP3

In July, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission unanimously approved regulations allowing Instant Racing at the state’s eight horse tracks. Instant Racing allows bettors to place electronic wagers on previously run horse races. Before the regulations go into effect, the public gets to weigh-in on them.

Last week, the Revenue Cabinet held a sparsely attended hearing in Frankfort on taxation of Instant Racing. Only two people spoke and both were Instant Racing opponents. But the hearing at The Red Mile drew more than 100 people, most with ties to the horse industry.

The first to speak was Lexington veterinarian Andy Roberts, an east coast native who says he moved to Kentucky for the horses. But Roberts says Kentucky is losing its signature industry to states like Indiana, where casino revenues help pump up race purses.

“If it gets to the point where there’s nothing left here in the horse business, I can tell you what will happen to me,” said Roberts. “The farm will go up for sale, and the last hundred bucks I’ve got in my pocket will fuel my truck to drive me to Indiana, where I don’t want to live!”

Attorney Stan Cave, who represents the Family Foundation of Kentucky, spoke next. He says the pari-mutuel laws in Kentucky allow betting only on live races.

“Gambling on videos of previously run horse races is nothing more than gambling through the use of video slot machines,” said Cave.

And that, says Cave, does not meet Kentucky’s legal definition of pari-mutuel gambling.

“The handle and payout, associated with betting on videos of previously run horse races, is not pari-mutuel.”

But Patrick Neely of the Kentucky Equine Education Project, or KEEP, begs to differ.

“The money is collected in a pari-mutuel pool and if you are successfully able to handicap a historic horse race, you are paid out of that pool,” said Neely.

Many of the 14 people who spoke, including Carrie Brogdon of Paris, questioned why Instant Racing at horse tracks is such a hot button issue in a state that allows charitable gaming at churches.

“Who cares?” questioned Brogdon. “Why all the control? What gives anyone in this room the right to say what I can and can’t do with my money and my extra time?”

Others like Linda Boyd of Lexington say the whole issue of expanded gambling should have been put to voters years ago.

“Everything has been shut down to where the people have not been allowed to vote,” said Boyd. “And I do believe that the people have the right to vote.”

Former Gov. Brereton Jones, who was in the audience but didn’t speak during the hearing, says he worked hard for such a vote, but ran into strong opposition from the churches. Now, he believes it’s too late.

“It will take a minimum of two-and-a-half years to get it done, get it appealed and go on – if in fact the people even voted for it,” Jones told Kentucky Public Radio. “At the end of two-and-a-half years, there will be tens of thousands of families that will have left the state and our industry will not be dying, but will be dead.”

Martin Cothran of the Family Foundation says the organization certainly isn’t out to kill Kentucky’s horse industry.

“But we do not support helping the horse industry by hurting it,” said Cothran. “And that’s what we do when we try to help the horse industry by bringing in mechanized gambling.”

From here, the Instant Racing regulations move to the legislature, for review by an oversight committee. The panel’s vote is non-binding, so the regulations can move ahead with or without the committee’s blessing. However, the legality of Instant Racing is still being tested in Franklin Circuit Court.

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Local News Politics

Instant Racing Hearing Held In Lexington

By Tony McVeigh, Kentucky Public Radio

More than 100 people showed up at The Red Mile in Lexington Wednesday for a public hearing on Instant Racing. Fourteen people spoke. Eleven were Instant Racing supporters, but three members of the Family Foundation spoke against electronic wagering on previously run horse races.

The foundation’s Martin Cothran says the group is not trying to kill Kentucky’s horse industry, which says it needs new revenue streams to survive.

“But we do not support helping the horse industry by hurting it. And that’s what we do when we try to help the horse industry by bringing in mechanized gambling. It’s a deal with the devil. We know from the experience of other states that mechanized gambling eventually drives out horses. It may take some time, but the devil will eventually get his due,” he said.

In July, regulations allowing Instant Racing at horse tracks were unanimously approved by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. During the public hearing process, the legality of the new form of gambling is also being tested in the courts.