Kentucky race tracks eye Instant Racing, some tracks wait

Jul 4, 2011 7:29 PM

Frustrated in their attempts to get slot machine approval from the legislature, Kentucky horse tracks decided to support the introduction of Instant Racing, a gambling machine that permits players to gamble on previously run races.

The machines were first introduced at Oaklawn Race Course in Arkansas with surprising success but have had limited success since then in other jurisdictions.

Kentucky’s racetracks, including Churchill Downs, home of the famed Kentucky Derby, have for several years fought unsuccessfully for the right to introduce video lottery machines similar to those that populate race tracks throughout the country.

However, they were successful in getting approval for these Instant Racing machines that became legal on July 1. Track operators are not jumping at the chance to add the devices to their operations.

Seems, a group called The Family Foundation of Kentucky has appealed a circuit court ruling that said the machines were legal under Kentucky law. The State Court of Appeals has not yet issued its ruling.

That is not stopping Corey Johnsen, who runs Kentucky Downs in southern Kentucky. He says he will introduce Instant Racing just as soon as he can get a license to do so from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Other tracks feel the risk of having the court ruling reversed is too great.

Said a spokesperson for Keeneland: "At this time Keeneland does not anticipate moving forward with Instant Racing until the legal process has reached its final conclusion."

Churchill Downs took a similar position, saying, "Given the potential capital investment required, we do not intend to proceed until we are certain we can legally operate in Kentucky."