Op-Ed

Forgy: Instant racing a desperate gambit, violates state law

At issue | Jan. 29 Herald-Leader article, "Horse industry groups seek high-court ruling; Move would bypass appeals process, speed up decision on Instant Racing"

The slot-machine-at-the-race-track crowd is trying to run daylight by the rooster.

They got a Frankfort judge to rule that slot machines with the equivalent of dead horses (not live races) can be placed in the race tracks when slot machines with pictures of cherries, oranges and lemons cannot.

According to current law, betting on horses at racetracks is only permitted in a pari-mutuel form. There is a wagering pool; you bet against other bettors who are all watching the same race.

With Instant Racing videos, the patrons are all watching different races. Thus, no pari-mutuel. It is the machine that sets the odds, thus it's illegal. It's not live racing.

Also, under current law, KRS 138.510, the Revenue Department has authority only to collect taxes on "tracks conducting pari-mutuel wagering on live racing."

There is no statutory authority for the department to collect excise taxes on bets on videos of previously and anonymously run horse races with the use of gambling devices which display videos and accept bets.

But somehow, the track crowd has convinced Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate that the Kentucky Racing Commission can promulgate regulations which approve a scheme with gambling on videotapes of previously run horse races. That is quite an illogical stretch.

Gov. Steve Beshear and the slot-machine-at-the-race-track crowd will go to any lengths to sock the people of this state with huge gambling losses, most of which will go to rich racetrack owners.

Beshear's 2007 campaign for governor was funded largely by racetrack interests. For example, William Yung III, a Northern Kentucky hotel and casino impresario, donated $1 million to a political fund that helped finance his campaign.

Richard Duchossoiss of Chicago, whose company owns the largest percentage of Churchill Downs stock and who owns Arlington Park in Illinois, also supported Beshear.

In his 2007 Democratic primary debate with then House Speaker Jody Richards, Beshear promised to push for approval of casino gambling through the General Assembly. Both Richards and Senate President David Williams responded quickly, at separate places, to essentially say, "like hell you will." Later, the track interests beat Richards but couldn't get Williams.

Beshear's first budget proposal in 2008 contained a huge gambling program with eight casinos associated with race tracks. The tracks, according to the Legislative Research Commission, would have gotten almost 70 percent of the estimated $800 million of the expected gambling losses. The plan landed at the Kentucky Senate with a thud. It went nowhere.

Beshear shifted gears. He appointed Republican senators to high-paying state jobs in an attempt to take control of the Senate in the races to fill the vacated seats. He was defeated on that. Thud!

Recently, he lost slot-issue-dominated elections for state Senate seats in Owensboro, Paducah, Richmond, Lexington and Louisville. So, his brazen attempts to gain enough votes in the legislature to pass slots gambling lost. Another thud.

To his credit, Williams offered to help put the casino issue on the ballot to let voters decide. Because Beshear knew that would lose, he walked away.

Now, he and his gambling buddies have come up with something called "instant racing" and are seeking, in an odd way, to have it validated. They have tried legislation, political power and rejected a direct vote of the people — none of those worked.

Beshear and company are using judicial decisions to get done what they couldn't do politically. Our governor is orchestrating this to the detriment of the people

We must not let this crowd "slip shuck" the people of Kentucky with their Instant Racing.

If they can't win this politically by a vote of the people, they ought to lose. It's that simple. No slots without a vote. No dead horses.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments