Temporary fix for long-term challenge

No one expects the new gambling options approved by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Tuesday to rescue the state's faltering signature industry.

Even supporters acknowledge that letting racetrack-goers bet on previously run races — a la Arkansas' "Instant Racing" — falls short of being a panacea for a Thoroughbred racing business struggling to compete with the larger purses now being offered in "racino" states.

But Rick Hiles, president of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, may have put it in the best perspective when he said, "This keeps us from drowning for a while."

Put the emphasis on "for a while."

Revenue from Instant Racing-style gambling will help — a bit. And the industry will be thankful for that help.

But Instant Racing revenue will fall far short of what the racetracks envisioned they could generate from slots.

And it won't delay the inevitable for long — not with a big casino coming soon to downtown Cincinnati and Ohio racetracks, including two in the Cincinnati area, lobbying for their own slots.

It's doubtful Instant Racing can help Turfway Park survive having that competition added to the riverboat casinos already in operation in southeastern Indiana.

It's equally doubtful that many of the Kentuckians headed for Indiana riverboats across the Ohio River from Louisville and Henderson will detour instead to Churchill Downs and Ellis Park just to bet on Instant Racing.

So, if and when this form of gambling becomes a reality in Kentucky, it will be at best a short-term life jacket for our signature racing industry's year-round circuit.

And unfortunately, there is no permanent solution in sight at the moment.