Former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott ran for the Republican nomination for Kentucky's governor this year in a race that was eventually won by Matt Bevin. One of the issues Scott ran on was expanded gambling to help the state pay for pensions for state workers.
Before he quit his post as a Supreme Court justice, Scott (and the rest of the court) had voted in favor of allowing the Kentucky Racing Horse Commission to regulate instant racing, a mechanized game that The Family Foundation (as the defendant in the case) has maintained was no different than a slot machine, and therefore in violation of Kentucky's Constitution.
But a week before the election, and a year after the court decision, Scott visited Kentucky Downs in Simpson County and publicly professed to be shocked by what he had seen.
"I'd think I was in Reno," he told a reporter. "These are nothing but big banks and banks and banks of slot machines. We thought there were horses involved, and so the Racing Commission can regulate it. But these are ducks and chickens and these are slot machines. I do not believe this has anything to do with historical racing. And if it doesn't have anything to do with historical racing, then it's illegal."
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It's amazing how actually seeing what he or she is ruling on can affect a judge's attitude.
During the entire five-year course of the litigation — in which the case has gone from district court to the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court and back down to the original district court— not a single judge has seen an instant racing machine, which is kind of strange, since it is these machines that judges are trying to determine are constitutional or not.
Why haven't judges seen the very machines they are supposed to be deciding about? It is in large part due to the success of racing industry attorneys who have managed to convince judges that they don't need to see the machines, or know much of anything about them, in order to know what they are.
The case ended up back in the original trial court because the trial court in the original hearing would not allow The Family Foundation to ask questions or present evidence of what the machines actually did, deciding instead on specious grounds that the slot-like machines somehow constitute pari-mutuel betting on horses.
Which could be why Scott saw neither pari-mutuel wagering nor any horses when he visited Kentucky Downs.
The case is now before the original judge, who has still not seen an actual instant racing machine. Some wag once pointed out that justice is blind, but it's hard to believe this is what he meant.