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Anti-gambling group asks to intervene in 'Instant Racing' lawsuit

FRANKFORT — The anti-gambling Family Foundation of Kentucky has asked to intervene in a court case involving the legality of slots-style electronic gambling on previously run horse races, known as "Instant Racing."

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission last month unanimously approved regulatory changes to allow instant racing. In an effort to forestall anticipated legal challenges, the commission, along with the eight tracks in the state and the state Department of Revenue, asked Franklin Circuit Court to rule on the legality of implementing the games.

Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst for The Family Foundation, said the advocacy group filed a brief in Franklin Circuit Court Monday to intervene in what it calls a "one-sided case" that would expand gambling in the state beyond the current legal limits.

"As it stands right now, the court has a case before it in which only one side is being represented on a regulation that hasn't even been approved and which the public has had no chance to comment on," Cothran said. "We realize the horse racing tracks have a lot of political power in this state, but this makes it look like we've just handed them the keys to state government and given them the run of the place."

Cothran called instant racing "just slot machines under another name. It is a back-door attempt to do what the gambling industry failed to convince legislators to do during the last General Assembly session: allow wealthy horse tracks to bypass the Kentucky Constitution."

The Kentucky Constitution allows betting only on the state lottery and on live horse racing, Cothran said.

Bob Beck, racing commission chairman, said last month the commission believes wagering on "historic races" is a pari-mutuel wagering product and the commission has the constitutional authority to regulate it.

Dick Brown, a spokesman for the racing commission, said Monday it would "thoroughly review" The Family Foundation's filing.

A hearing on the issue is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Sept. 1 in Franklin Circuit Court.

The state racing commission is to hold a public hearing on instant racing at 10 a.m. Sept. 29 at The Red Mile in Lexington.

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