The Red Mile is set to start construction on what amounts to a casino with 500 slot machines smack in the middle of the University of Kentucky's student community, and Keeneland has plans for 600 of these same i"nstant racing"machines; further, they're telling us there's absolutely nothing we can do to stop them.
Kentucky's horse tracks may have chanted, "Let the people decide!" during the political season, but now that it's no longer expedient, they've changed their tune.
Keeneland's Vice President, Vince Gabbert, brushed away the request by concerned citizens that Lexington be allowed to vote on the matter. You can't vote on "an already legal, regulated entity," Gabbert said on behalf of the horse tracks.
Gabbert — three years deep in a lawsuit asking the Kentucky courts to make instant-racing machines legal — knows good and well that the machines haven't been determined legal. And his lawyers at Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC know how much it's costing Keeneland and Kentucky's seven other tracks to get them legalized.
For those who aren't familiar with instant-racing machines, they look, sound and pay out just like slot machines. But players get to watch old clips of horse races before "betting" — that's the loophole that track lawyers hope will confuse a Kentucky judge into deciding that the machines fit within the guidelines of Kentucky's constitution, which currently prohibits slot machines.
How absurd of Keene-land to call something "already legal" when they're part of the very group that is so concerned that the machines are illegal that they sued themselves in a rare legal maneuver called an "agreed case," asking the judge to declare the machines legal.
Their uneasiness is warranted given that courts in other states seem to be able to call a spade a spade.
The Wyoming Court of Appeals was immovable when the horse tracks tried the trick on them: "We are dealing with a slot machine that attempts to mimic traditional pari-mutel wagering. Although it may be a good try, we will not be so easily beguiled."
In 2009, Maryland's attorney general stepped in with a decision to bar the machines after a thorough study of how they work.
For the last few years, it looked like Kentucky's eight tracks and their fancy lawyers had duped one Kentucky judge.
However, the Supreme Court recently stepped in and unanimously said that the lone lawyer standing in opposition to the tracks must be allowed to ask questions about the machines. The Supreme Court has demanded transparency in a case that has sorely lacked it.
Though the complex suit isn't playing out in the media, executives at Keeneland and The Red Mile know the simple truth that their 1,100 slot machines haven't been determined legal and, in fact, the odds don't seem to be in their favor.
Casinos and slot machines (no matter what name they go by) prey on the poor and disadvantaged in any location, but Lexingtonians should be especially concerned about the thousands of students — already deep in debt for the cost of their education — who will be lured in by The Red Mile casino just a few hundred feet from their front doors.
How many students will become addicts or lose large sums while earning their degrees at UK?
Track executives are telling us there's nothing we can do to protect them, but we will not be so easily beguiled.
Keren Henderson is executive director of Stop Predatory Gambling Kentucky.