A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Historical Horse Racing clears House committee; full floor House vote today; if passed, goes to Governor

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Legislation that would allow historical horse racing in Kentucky won passage in a House committee on Wednesday unanimously, just one day after the full Senate gave its approval.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, was introduced in the General Assembly, following recent action by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Red Mile photo

The Kentucky Supreme Court determined last September that HHR, as it is known, was not pari-mutuel wagering and therefore not legal in Kentucky. In January, the justices unanimously denied a motion for rehearing, which essentially ended a battle over the legality issue that dated back to 2010.

The denial also led to the temporary closing of the historical horse racing facility at Lexington’s Red Mile a few days later.

During testimony before the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee, horse trainer Tom Drury said this is about people.

“This is the livelihood of a lot of people in Kentucky. You’re talking about 60,000 people who rely on this industry to feed their families. This is a no-brainer. We need HHR to compete with the rest of the country and to keep our horses and our jobs in the state of Kentucky.”

Schickel told the panel the purpose of his bill is simple, “The Supreme Court made a ruling that these machines did not meet the criteria in the Constitution and invited the legislature to clarify by making a definition of pari-mutuel wagering. That is exactly what I’ve done in Senate Bill 120.”

The Family Foundation spoke in opposition to the bill.
Their attorney, Stan Cave, testified that not only is the bill unconstitutional, but characterized it as the gambling industry’s “trust me” bill.

“Will this bill protect live racing? What do they say, ‘trust us,’ but it’s not in the bill. Does it protect horse farms? They say ‘trust us,’ but it’s not in the bill. Will it protect the jobs that they say they are going to create and have in the future? They say ‘trust us,’ but it’s not in the bill.”

Cave told the committee, “The gambling industry makes its fortune based on deceit. This is the same gambling industry that has some 63 lobbyists working members of the General Assembly saying, ‘Just trust us.’”

The bill cleared the committee without dissent and now heads to the full House, where a floor vote and final action could take place as early as Thursday. Gov. Andy Beshear has said he would sign it into law.

Dr. Todd Gray, executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said: “I hope state representatives will consider the wide implications on legalizing casino-style slot machines for gambling on historic horse racing. Gambling is always bad policy because it hurts families.”

Horses training on Wednesday over Turfway Park’s new Tapeta all-weather surface. (Jennie Rees photos)

Trainer Chip Brownfield has spent his 20 years as a trainer at Turfway in the winter and lives close by. He says if HHR is protected and Turfway with its new all-weather track stays open for stabling year-round, he’ll just stay at Turfway all year and ship around in the spring, summer and fall to various tracks in the region.

Trainer Neil Howard who has trained almost 40 years, including training 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft, 1990 Preakness Stakes with Summer Squall and the 2000 Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Status, started his career around Turfway-River Downs but returned this winner for the first time in years. He says HHR make it possible for Kentucky to have a true year-round circuit.

Kentucky Today and Staff Report

Related Posts

Leave a Comment