The oft-quoted witticism that is generally apropos for the current instant-racing debacle is "Don't get the cart before the horse."
But properly applying the details of the situation in Lexington and Corbin suggest it should be modified to "Don't get the machines before the court decision."
The legal reality is this: These instant-racing slot-like machines are not really legal, at least not yet. Despite the fact they have not been proven legal, several hundred have been operating at Kentucky Downs and Ellis Park with impunity and there are wild proposals about hundreds more being installed near the University of Kentucky and around Corbin.
Now in the fifth year of litigation, the battle over the legality of instant racing continues. Under Kentucky law, casino-type gaming is illegal, but proponents argue that instant racing is no different than a sunny afternoon at the race track. By reported accounts, however, instant racing looks and operates like casino-type slot machines or video lottery terminals.
Never miss a local story.
In fact, in describing instant racing, a Wyoming court held: "[W]e are dealing with a slot machine that attempts to mimic traditional pari-mutuel wagering. Although it may be a good try, we are not so easily beguiled."
Perceiving that all did not meet the eye, The Family Foundation intervened in the instant racing lawsuit in the Franklin Circuit Court to try to bring transparency to perceived attempts to circumvent the legislative process. With each passing day, revelations about instant racing become more bizarre. When the case began in July of 2010, Maryland, Wyoming, Oregon and Alabama had declared the gaming system illegal.
Within the last two months, Arizona, Illinois and Texas have followed suit and rejected it as a legal form of gaming under those states' gaming laws.
Most recently, a battle has resumed in Idaho over instant racing, where groups are claiming that Idaho legislators were duped into passing legislation allowing the game.
What is going on with instant racing is important on other fronts. Consider that Kentucky recently approved a $25 million taxpayer subsidy for construction of a gambling parlor on the apron of the University of Kentucky campus. Proponents insist that UK students aren't being targeted.
What about the state's other needs? Why does Kentucky deny incentive funding for a religious museum (the Ark Park) but approve a taxpayer subsidy for a gambling parlor? If they get their way, gambling industry proponents are just getting started.
Perhaps these and other state actions explain why instant-racing proponents in Kentucky have concealed facts about the gaming system and continue to oppose attempts to discover how instant racing really works.
It may also explain why the Horse Racing Commission and the Department of Revenue joined with eight race tracks (which they are supposed to be regulating and taxing) in filing this lawsuit that sought a declaration that instant racing was legal.
What about the public agencies' duties to the rest of Kentuckians?
Whether for or against expanded gaming, given this and the history of corruption associated with gambling in Kentucky, the need for complete transparency is beyond dispute.