The Bottom Line: Ky Supreme Court reverses decision on historical horse racing system used by multiple tracks

By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line

FRANKFORT, Ky. — In a unanimous decision Thursday, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that a historical horse racing system used by two Kentucky racetracks does not meet the definition of pari-mutuel wagering.

Thursday’s decision reversed a Franklin Circuit Court approval of the Encore gaming system, with the opinion stating that the system “does not create a wagering pool among patrons such that they are wagering among themselves as required for pari-mutuel wagering.”

While the overall impact of the ruling on one of Kentucky’s signature industries is still unclear, the high court made a strong statement against the legality of the $2 billion gaming industry in the state.

“We acknowledge the importance and significance of this industry to this commonwealth. We appreciate the numerable economic pressures that impact it,” the Supreme Court said. “If a change, however, in the long-accepted definition of pari-mutuel wagering is to be made that change must be made by the people of this commonwealth through their duly-elected legislators, not by an appointed administrative body and not by the judiciary.”

“Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested and thousands of Kentucky jobs created because of historical horse racing,” said Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Ashli Watts in response to Thursday’s decision. “As we continue to review today’s Supreme Court ruling, we are deeply concerned with how the decision could negatively impact Kentucky’s signature equine industry as well as tourism across the commonwealth.”