In its continuing efforts to further expand the limits of legal gambling in the state, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has approved four new games and 40 additional machines at the controversial Instant Racing Parlor at Kentucky Downs near Kentucky’s border with Tennessee in Franklin. It is a risky business that challenges the limits on gambling established by the Kentucky Constitution.
Even one racing commission member — Ned Bonnie — said the new games seem to be “moving away from historic races.”
The issue is an important one. State law bans wagering that is not pari-mutual, but because gambling on the Instant Racing games are based on the results of historic races, the commission contends betting on Instant Racing results is pari-mutuel and not banned by the state constitution.
That interpretation is being challenged in the courts, but in the meantime, Instant Racing Parlors now are operating at Kentucky Downs and at Ellis Park in Henderson. Tennessee’s statewide ban against all types of gambling makes Kentucky Downs a particularly appealing location for a gambling parlor, while Ellis Park faces stiff competition from a riverboat casino a few miles away in Evansville, Ind.
Commission Chairman Bob Beck said an expert reviewed the four new games and found them to be pari-mutuel, but Bonnie remained unconvinced. However, instead of voting against the new games, Bonnie abstained from voting.
We are not opposed to expanded gambling at racetracks where gambling already is a way of life, but we would be a lot more comfortable with what the commission is doing at Kentucky Downs and Ellis Park if the Kentucky General Assembly had approved a bill allowing the new forms of gambling at racetracks or, better yet, if Kentuckians had been given the opportunity to vote for or against expanded gambling.