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The Kentucky State Capitol building | Getty Images

By T. D. Thornton A vote on the fate of historical horse race (HHR) gaming in Kentucky by the full House of Representatives could come as early as Thursday after lawmakers Wednesday morning continued to fast-track the “emergency” Senate bill to legalize the slot machine-like form of betting by defining “pari-mutuel wagering” to include previously run races.
About 17 hours after SB 120 passed the full Kentucky Senate by a 22-15 vote, the proposal sailed through the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee Feb. 10.
Representative Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger), who chairs that committee, said after the bill cleared his committee that the earliest it could be debated and voted upon on the House floor is Feb. 11.

“There are some more conversations to be had in our caucus,” Koenig told Casino.org reporter Steve Bittenbender via text message.
If the vote doesn’t happen Thursday, the next earliest date on Kentucky’s legislative calendar for the House to be in session is Tuesday, Feb. 16. This Friday is marked as a “draft day” for lawmakers, and the traditional weekend off extends through Monday next week because of the Presidents Day holiday.
Proponents of the bill are aiming to align HHR in a way that they believe will make the slots-like form of gaming constitutionally legal so the machines can keep generating $2.2. billion in annual handle. The Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund’s purse-money cut from HHR is three-quarters of 1% of that handle.
HHR was put into peril Jan. 21, when the Supreme Court of Kentucky denied a petition for rehearing an earlier judgment that called into question the legality of HHR because it didn’t amount to “pari-mutuel wagering.” The question over that legal definition, led by anti-gambling activists, has worked its way through the court system ever since HHR was first allowed by the state in 2012.

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This story was posted in Top News and tagged Historical Horse Racing, Kentucky, Kentucky State House of Representatives, Kentucky State Senate, pari-mutuel wagering.

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The Kentucky State Senate reportedly passed legislation yesterday that would officially change the definition of parimutuel wagering so as to allow licensed facilities in the southern state to continue offering historical racing games.
According to a Tuesday report from The Courier-Journal newspaper, the Republican-controlled chamber ratified Senate Bill 120 by a vote of 22 to 15 following heavy lobbying from the local horseracing industry. The move purportedly came after the Kentucky Supreme Court last year ruled that the games, which resemble slots often found in casinos, did not constitute legal parimutuel wagering and should be removed from tracks.
Immediate itinerary:
The newspaper reported that Senate Bill 120, which was sponsored by Kentucky State Senator John Schickel, is now destined to head to a vote before the 100-seat Kentucky House of Representatives where a similar outcome would send it to the desk of Democratic Governor Andy Beshear. The local horseracing industry purportedly believes that the legislation’s successful passage would allow it to protect its future and save thousands of at-risk jobs in ‘The Bluegrass State’ including some 1,400 positions at Boone County’s Turfway Park.
Gubernatorial grant:
The Courier-Journal reported that Beshear used a Tuesday press conference to detail that he would be pleased to approve Senate Bill 120 should pass through the Kentucky House of Representatives as historical racing games are directly responsible for around $15 million in annual tax revenues. The Kentucky Equine Education Project advocacy group purportedly similarly praised the ratification and declared that the ultimate success of the legislation would ‘protect important jobs and investment in communities across the commonwealth.’
Reportedly read a statement from the Kentucky Equine Education Project…
“The future of the horse industry and Kentucky’s economy is in legislators’ hands and real jobs and livelihoods are at risk. A vote to keep historical horseracing in Kentucky is a vote for Kentucky families and the industry that supports them.”
Fitful future:
However, it reportedly remains uncertain as to whether the Kentucky House of Representatives will pass Senate Bill 120 with many critics asserting that the measure is unconstitutional as historical racing games can only be approved by means of a statewide referendum. Kentucky State Senator Damon Thayer purportedly stated that such an exercise, even if it was successful, would likely keep the lucrative units out of the state’s tracks until late next year at the earliest and lead to the closure of ‘three to four racetracks’ by the end of 2021.

kentucky state senatekentucky house of representativesdamon thayerparimutuel wageringturfway parkkentucky supreme courthistorical racing gamessenate bill 120john schickelandy beshear

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By T. D. Thornton The “emergency” bill to legalize historical horse race (HHR) gaming by defining “pari-mutuel wagering” to include previously run races passed the Kentucky State Senate late Tuesday afternoon 22-15, with one senator not Kentcasting a vote.
Proponents of the bill are aiming to align HHR in a way that they believe will make it constitutionally legal so the machines can keep generating $2.2. billion in annual handle. The Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund’s purse-money cut from HHR is three-quarters of 1% of that handle.
Senators speaking in favor of SB 120 focused their arguments primarily on the economic advantages of maintaining HHR, whose status quo has fueled the state’s racing renaissance over the past decade.

Proponents also framed part of the debate as “class warfare,” and said keeping HHR intact would be Kentucky’s best bet to protect its signature horse racing and breeding industry. Another argument was that keeping HHR legal and limited to racetrack-related licensees would avoid any infiltration of big casinos in a state known for conservative opposition to expanding gambling.
Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) objected to what he termed as “pejorative” descriptions of gamblers and racetrackers by the bill’s opponents, and made the dire prediction that “three or four” Kentucky racetracks could close within the next fiscal year if senators didn’t advance the HHR bill.
Opponents hit repeatedly on what they described as the non-constitutionality of HHR, the moral ills of gambling, and how the racing industry knew 10 years ago it was building a figurative house atop “quicksand” because of the murky legality over HHR.
Even senators who expressed neutrality on embracing the new pari-mutuel definition of HHR had strong opinions about its future: One believed the racing industry’s cries for help over the need for HHR amounted to a form of “blackmail.” Another said he was in favor of keeping HHR legal so long as the state enacted separate legislation to tax it at a higher rate. Yet a third said this issue would eventually have to be decided by Kentucky residents by voting on a constitutional amendment.
SB120 now advances to the Kentucky House of Representatives.
This story will be updated.

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This story was posted in Top News and tagged Damon Thayer, Historical Horse Racing Gaming, Kentucky State Senate, SB120.

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