UPDATE: Governor signs Historic Horse Racing slots bill into law


UPDATE POSTED 5:30 P.M. MONDAY, FEB. 22, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Ten days after the Legilsature approved the measure, Gov. Andy Beshear signed a bill into law addressing legal issues with the Historic Horse Racing slot machines.

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Beshear signing the measure into law drew praise from the Kentucky Equine Education Project — KEEP — a major equine economic advocate advocate in the state and one of the groups who helped lobby lawmakers in favor of SB 120.

“We thank Governor Beshear for signing Senate Bill 120 into law, which ensures the future of our equine industry while protecting thousands of local jobs. Kentuckians and the legislators who represent them have made clear that they support historical horse racing and the many benefits it brings to our communities. We are optimistic about the horse industry’s road ahead and remain committed to keeping Kentucky a world-class racing destination for many years to come,” KEEP said in a statement.

UPDATE POSTED 10:30 P.M. THURSDAY, FEB. 11, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) -The Kentucky House passed Senate bill 120, it will now go to Governor Andy Beshear.

Senate bill 120 was approved Tuesday, Feb 9th, by the State Senate

It went on to be heard by the house Thursday, Feb 11th, where a long debate ensued between Republican and Democratic representatives. Republicans went head to head discussing for and against opinions.

“This bill is about the economic impact of the thoroughbred industry, the 5.2 billion dollars of economic impact for this commonwealth” said Representative Matthew Koch, (R) Paris.

The bill is aimed at saving the State’s historic horse racing gambling slot machine industry…deemed illegal by the State Supreme Court because it doesn’t fall under the definition of pari-mutuel wagering.

“There is no real debate that this is unconstitutional it doesn’t exist’ said Representative, Jason Nemes (R) Middletown.

Many in favor of the bill said that they were voting yes because they did not want to be a part of taking away jobs.

“At the end of the day this issue comes down to one thing for me, the survival of the people in my district” said Representative Suzanne Miles, (R) Owensboro.

But many were not for the passage of the bill.

“Losing great economic wealth pales in comparison to losing respect for the rule of law” said Representative Jennifer Decker, (R) Waddy.

Republican Representative David Hale, although previously ill with COVID-19, said he had someone drive him to the debate because he was that passionate in stating his opinion.

“In my humble opinion I don’t think it is about their jobs I think it is about greed, I think it is about greed from a greedy industry and a greedy corporation” said Hale.

But after much discussion Senate Bill 120 was passed in the House 55-38.

It will now be sent for approval to Governor Andy Beshear.

UPDATE POSTED 11 A.M. WEDNESDAY, FEB. 10, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – A House committee approved a historic horse racing slots bill Wednesday morning and the measure could go to the full House Wednesday afternoon.

And the group that has led a decade-long fight in court and in public opinion over the slots which gambling parlors and horse-racing tracks have used to remain financial viable again took aim at the legislation.

Senate Bill 120 was narrowly approved Tuesday by the state Senate with the backing of a coalition of Democrats and Republicans. It may take the same kind of backing to get through the House today.

Meanwhile, the Family Foundation raised the same issues it has brought up for years during testimony before the House Licensing and Occupations Committee meeting Wednesday morning. The hearing was relatively brief.

“Mr. Chairman, Churchill Downs, whose CEO makes over $10 million a year, does not need a stimulus check,” said Martin Cothran, spokesman for The Family Foundation right before the House Licensing and Occupations Committee voted in favor of slots legislation.

“This is an unconstitutional millionaire’s stimulus bill that, far from saving the horse industry, will ultimately replace it,” said Cothran.

The Family Foundation’s counsel and former State Representative, Stan Cave, called the bill a “trust me” bill because of what the group calls unverified claims supporters are making for it.

Cothran said the bill’s chances were hurt yesterday, when it garnered only half the votes in the Republican caucus which controls the Senate chamber. “In my almost thirty years in Frankfort, I don’t remember seeing a bill being pushed to the floor with only half the support of the majority party. It shows the power and influence that big money brings to the legislative process. This could mean trouble for it in the House.”

Cothran pointed to the lack of confidence in the tone of House leaders who pushing the bill as another sign that the bill is in trouble.

UPDATE POSTED 5 P.M. FEB. 9, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/AP) – On a rare bi-partisan coalition, the Kentucky state Senate Tuesday narrowly approved a bill to save the state’s Historic Horse Racing gambling slot machine industry.

The bill is aimed at preserving wagering on historical racing machines that the state’s horse tracks have plugged into to support racing operations.

The bill now goes to the House, which is expected to take it up soon. If passed, its provisions could go into effect next week unless challenged in court. The House Licensing and Occupations Committee will consider the measure Wednesday.

The measure divided Republicans who control the Senate, but the proposal’s supporters forged a coalition with enough Republicans and Democrats to push it through the Senate on a 22-15 vote.

It responds to a Kentucky Supreme Court ruling that at least some forms of wagering on historical horse racing don’t meet pari-mutuel wagering standards under state law. The measure would insert such operations into the definition of pari-mutuel wagering.

Historical racing machines allow people to bet on randomly generated, past horse races. The games typically show video of condensed horse races. Bettors in Kentucky wagered more than $2 billion on historical racing machines in the prior fiscal year.

Those revenues help support Kentucky’s renowned horse industry. The ventures have pumped money into race purses and breed development funds to make Kentucky tracks more competitive.

Opponents said such wagering drains money from the poor. They said the bill amounts to a bailout for the racing industry, which they said pushed ahead with developing historical wagering parlors despite legal questions overshadowing the ventures.

The legislation is Senate Bill 120.

The Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP), Kentucky’s equine economic advocate, released the following statement following the Senate’s passage of Senate Bill 120:

“We applaud the Senate for voting to keep historical horse racing in Kentucky and protect important jobs and investment in communities across the commonwealth. Senator John Schickel and Senate President Robert Stivers have been instrumental in moving this legislation forward, and we thank them for their efforts. Now, we are calling on our elected officials in the House to bring SB 120 to passage so that historical horse racing can continue in the commonwealth, just as it has for the last decade,” the group said.

“The future of the horse industry and Kentucky’s economy is in legislators’ hands, and real jobs and livelihoods are at risk. Tens of thousands of Kentuckians rely on the equine industry to make a living and provide for their families—many of whom have already sent messages and made calls to their legislators asking them to vote yes on this critical legislation. They are your neighbors, family members, colleagues and friends. We hope that legislators will keep these individuals in mind as they discuss SB 120 in the coming days. A vote to keep historical horse racing in Kentucky is a vote for Kentucky families and the industry that supports them,” the group continued.

The bill will be heard in the House Committee on Licensing, Occupations & Administrative Regulations before heading to the House floor for a vote.

ORIGINAL STORY POSTED FEB. 4, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Legislation to save a segment of Kentucky’s horse racing industry is on a fast track in Frankfort.

Senate Bill 120 to save Historical Horse Racing, HHR, is headed to the full Senate after passing out of a committee Thursday.

Historical racing features slot machines that allow people to bet on randomly generated, previously run horse races.

Among the speakers in support was a horse trainer from Boone County.

“If you go anywhere in the world and tell someone you’re from Kentucky they’re going to know horses and they’re going to know the Kentucky Derby. That’s what we’re known for,” Tommy Drury said. “We’re supposed to set the standard.”

Lexington attorney Bill Lear talked about the economic impact of losing HHR.

“Come this Sunday, 225 full-time jobs in Lexington – millions of dollars in salary and benefits – will be lost,” Lear said.

The state Supreme Court ruled last year that at least some of the historical racing games in betting parlors weren’t legal. They didn’t meet the definition of pari-mutuel wagering.

Some operations, like the Red Mile in Lexington, eventually closed in hopes state lawmakers would pass legislation in this short session, reviving operations.

That’s what Senate Bill 120 is designed to do.

The Family Foundation, a Lexington-based conservative group opposed to expanded gambling, filed the initial lawsuit challenging the legality of HHR.

“Everyone thought, up until 2010 when these machines were introduced, meant live horse racing,” Martin Cothran with The Family Foundation said. “These machines showed old horses involving horses many of who have gone on to their eternal glory.”

“It’s no giant leap of logic. A six-year-old could do the exercise,” Stan Cave, a lawyer for The Family Foundation, said. “The language in the bill does not compare at all, remotely, in the slightest with the language that the Supreme Court said constituted pari-mutuel wagering.”

Republican Senator Damon Thayer, of Georgetown, a supporter of the bill, says The Family Foundation was disrespectful of HHR and everyone whose livelihoods depend on it.

“I’ve never seen testimony that insulted an entire industry more than what I’ve heard here today,” Thayer said.

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