One of the many famous lines in Casablanca belongs to Claude Rains’ Captain Renault, who, in full high dudgeon, tells Humphrey Bogart’s Rick: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”
OK, I’m not shocked by what’s going on off South Broadway, but a little perplexed.
Not being much of a betting person, I had to be urged earlier this year to visit the Red Mile by a friend who had questions about its snazzy, newly opened “instant racing” parlor. To him, it seemed like just another casino.
I walked into what looked like a regular casino with what looked like regular slot machines. I asked a couple of patrons whether the machines had anything to do with horse racing or were they just regular slots. “Just regular slots” was the answer I got.
Then after the Herald-Leader’s recent story about the success of the joint venture between Keeneland and the Red Mile, I repeated my visit. Nothing had changed.
One very amiable fellow, when asked about the machines’ connection to racing, said, “They’re supposed to, but they don’t. That’s bogus.” One woman turned and walked away when I asked; her friend said basically the same thing as the other people I had talked to.
I don’t object to legal gambling, and it has been obvious for years that our horse industry needs help and state government needs new revenue. But neither the legislature nor a constitutional amendment has approved casinos, which is pretty clearly what we have at the Red Mile, Ellis Park and Kentucky Downs.
The racing commission, the tracks and the state contend that winners are determined by the results of previously run horse races and not by random number generators, and therefore are not true slot machines.
Seems like a stretch. Or at least a horse of a different color.
The issue is tied up in the courts, so we’ll see who continues to make money off our pseudo casinos. Other than the lawyers, of course — at which I would be shocked, shocked.
Timothy M. Kelly is the former publisher of the Lexington Herald-Leader.