Historic racing operation in Kentucky closes temporarily; looks for Legislature fix

Published 6:47 am Tuesday, January 26, 2021

A betting operation featuring historical racing terminals has closed temporarily after Kentucky’s Supreme Court declined to reconsider its ruling that at least some of the games aren’t legal.

Keeneland and Red Mile called it a difficult decision to temporarily shut down the Lexington operation, but said it was done “until there is more clarity surrounding the situation.”

The state’s horse racing industry is looking to state lawmakers to resolve the issue in their favor, by passing legislation to put such betting operations on solid legal ground. Historical racing features slots-style machines allowing people to bet on randomly generated, past horse races. The games typically show video of condensed horse races. It’s become a lucrative venture for tracks.

“We have confidence the Kentucky legislature will continue its efforts to protect jobs and state revenue generated by historical horse racing, as well as protect Kentucky’s signature horse racing industry,” Keeneland and Red Mile said in a statement Sunday.

The legislature resumes its 2021 session next week, and the historical racing issue could become a contentious one for Republicans who dominate the House and Senate.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, a key ally of the racing industry, said Monday that the issue has “landed squarely in our laps.” The Republican senator didn’t offer specifics about a legislative response, saying: “Everything will become apparent once the legislature reconvenes.”

“I think legislators need to understand what’s at stake here — the future of Kentucky’s signature industry,” Thayer said.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear on Monday urged lawmakers to make a “simple statutory fix” that he said is needed to guarantee the future operation of historical racing venues.

“We ought to get this fixed,” he told reporters. “And I hope we can work in a bipartisan manner and I think we can to get it fixed.”