Despite the death of the casino bill in the General Assembly in February, Kentucky electronic gambling revenue continues to grow. In March, Kentucky Downs in Franklin posted a 19.75 percent increase in wagering on instant racing, a slots-like game in which players bet on previously run races.
From September through March, more than $67.5 million has been wagered; last month, players bet more than $15 million, an increase of almost $2.5 million over February.
Most of that was returned in the form of winnings, but Kentucky Downs netted more than $1 million for the month for the first time.
March's instant racing revenue generated almost $145,000 for purses; the state received more than $225,000, including more than $52,500 in taxes for the General Fund.
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Corey Johnsen, Kentucky Downs' president, said the games could be on track for $150 million in wagering in the first year.
"I think that's a reasonable projection," Johnsen said. "I'm very glad we have instant racing as a placeholder."
Instant racing faces another hurdle later this month when the Kentucky Court of Appeals hears oral arguments April 25 on the constitutionality of the wagers.
The Family Foundation, a conservative advocacy group that opposes expanded gambling, appealed the Franklin Circuit Court's ruling in December 2010 that instant racing is legal. The Family Foundation contends that because players bet on separate races, which are not live, the wagering is not pari-mutuel or live racing.
"We've been through three levels of approval: an attorney general's opinion, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's passage of rules and regulations, and the circuit court decision," Johnsen said. "All have given us confidence in our legal position."
So far, Kentucky Downs is the only racetrack in the state to add the games, but more are coming, particularly if the Court of Appeals upholds the legality.
Ellis Park in Henderson already has racing commission approval to put in 252 games.
Ellis Park director of operations Bob Jackson said Monday that the installation has been delayed by difficulty getting machines and parts.
Ellis now expects to open its instant racing parlor in early June, Jackson said.