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Family Foundation once again seeking hearing on historic horse racing by Kentucky Supreme Court

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

The Family Foundation is seeking to once again have a decade-old historic horse racing case transferred to the Kentucky Supreme Court, bypassing the Court of Appeals.

If the justices agree, this would be the third time the issue has been before the high court.

In February, lawmakers passed a bill that was signed by the governor, making historic horse racing legal. But since the General Assembly can’t pass retroactive legislation, the Family Foundation hopes to have the high court make a determination based on past actions they say were illegal.

In 2014, the high court ruled that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission had the legal authority to license pari-mutuel wagering on historical horse racing, but sent the case back to the trial court to determine whether instant racing constitutes the unauthorized expansion of gambling in violation of Kentucky law.

Red Mile photo

In 2018, Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate ruled that the instant racing machines, even though they looked and operated in many ways like slot machines, nevertheless met the definition of pari-mutuel wagering and were thus authorized under Kentucky law.

However, in September 2020, the Supreme Court issued an opinion which stated, “Because we hold that the Encore system does not create a wagering pool among patrons such that they are wagering among themselves as required for pari-mutuel wagering, the trial court misapplied the applicable regulation as a matter of law.”

They reversed the lower court ruling and remanded the case back to the Franklin Circuit Court “for entry of a judgment consistent with this opinion.”

The Family Foundation maintains, “The Franklin Circuit Court refused. Instead, the Franklin Circuit Court invited the racetracks to provide input in the judgment. When the judgment was entered by the Franklin Circuit Court on March 17, 2021, the Franklin Circuit Court’s judgment nullified the earlier Supreme Court’s opinion reversing.”

That prompted the Family Foundation to appeal.

“Because of the Franklin Circuit Court’s affront to the Kentucky Supreme Court, The Family Foundation seeks again to have the Kentucky Supreme Court adjudge the case. If the Supreme Court accepts the transfer of the appeal, this will be the third time the slot-gaming case will be before the state’s highest court.”

The Family Foundation also sought the direct transfer to the Supreme Court, bypassing the Court of Appeals, because the justices agreed to do so in the action that led to last September’s unanimous opinion.

There is no timetable on when the justices will decide on the request.

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