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Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Kentucky Senate passes legislative fix for slot-like gambling

An example of a Historical Horse Racing machine at Newport Racing and Gaming. IMG: Facebook. 

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Today the Kentucky Senate a bill by a vote of 22-15 to allow historical horse racing machines. Previously the Kentucky Supreme Court had said that type of gaming was illegal. 

The bill, sponsored by Sen. John Schickel, defined the slot-like machines as parimutuel. With the passage of the bill, it now moves to the Kentucky House Committee on Licensing & Occupations tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. 

The bill is likely to have a tougher path for passage in the House. 

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, said that without the passage of the legislation, Newport Racing and Gaming and  Turfway Park would close.

"The potential societal harm from closed gambling parlors outweighs the potential harm from gambling," said Schickel. “Is it really our role to tell poor people we need to protect them from themselves? I don’t think it is."

Churchill Downs opened the $38.4 million facility at the Newport Shopping Center in September, which includes over 500 Historical Racing Machines on its 17,000  square foot gaming floor. Newport Racing & Gaming also features a simulcast room to watch horse races across the country. On the day of a race, guests can wager on races and watch the action on big-screen televisions.

Barre 3 Fort Thomas. Located at 90 Alexandria Pike. 

The Red Mile in Lexington, which operated historical horse racing  gaming machines temporarily closed as a result of the court's decision. 

Earlier this week, Northern Kentucky Chamber announced its support for Senate Bill 120, highlighting the bill that will "protect critical jobs, investment and economic development in the region."

“The horse industry has a long history in Northern Kentucky, and we applaud Sen. Schickel for introducing legislation to ensure this great tradition continues,” said Brent Cooper, president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber. 

“Historical horse racing has allowed Kentucky racetracks to invest more in our communities through projects like the expansion of Turfway Park. Without the passage of Senate Bill 120, these opportunities to create new local jobs and grow our economy will disappear. Folks shouldn’t forget that we are globally recognized for horse racing.  The impact of losing that brand will not only hurt the horse industry, it will also hurt our tourism and talent attraction efforts. We are counting on the General Assembly to ensure historical horse racing stays in Kentucky, along with the jobs, investment and economic development that accompany it.”

The racing industry has poured millions into building gambling facilities that have generated millions for purses, for the tracks and for the state General Fund. 

The Family Foundation, the organization which filed suit against the operation of HHR gaming machines continues to lead against the issue, chastising the industry for opening even when the legislation was on shaky ground. 

"Illegal slot parlors now have to close their doors," they said previously in a statement sent to Fort Thomas Matters. "The tracks have continued to operate after the September ruling knowing that their chances of getting the Court to change its mind was a shot in the dark. Now that the Court has fully finalized its decision – unanimously, the tracks have to shut down their illegal gaming parlors."

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