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KY Supreme Court Denies Petition on HHR Decision

Court will not reconsider ruling against at least one brand of HHR in the state.

Kentucky tracks have opened historical horse racing facilities like the Mint Gaming Hall at Kentucky Downs

Kentucky tracks have opened historical horse racing facilities like the Mint Gaming Hall at Kentucky Downs

Kentucky Downs

A Jan. 21 court decision reaffirmed the need for legislative action on historical horse racing in the state, as a longshot legal request came up short.

The Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday denied an Oct. 14 petition filed by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and several of the state's tracks asking the court to reconsider its Sept. 24 opinion that determined that at least one brand of HHR operating in the state is not pari-mutuel.

The petition had asked the court to reconsider several of the findings on which it based its final opinion that Encore Racing Based Games' System is not pari-mutuel. The case was brought by the Family Trust Foundation of Kentucky.

The KHRC and the tracks wanted the court to reconsider how it was defining pari-mutuel wagering but on Thursday the request was denied. With those avenues played out, the Supreme Court's September directive was to return the case to Franklin Circuit Court "for entry of a judgment consistent with this opinion."

While the argument has been made that the decision doesn't apply to all brands of HHR and manufacturers of the games before the court have said changes can be made to meet the court's definition of pari-mutuel wagering, the industry would like to see lawmakers specifically allow the games—likely through an updated definition of pari-mutuel wagering.

Earlier this month the Kentucky Equine Education Project, which advocates for the horse industry in the state, called for legislation to maintain HHR in the state.

"Kentucky's signature equine industry has a simple request for state legislators in 2021: Maintain the status quo and protect local jobs and investment by allowing historical horse racing to continue in Kentucky," KEEP said. "Inaction would cost us thousands of jobs, millions in tax revenue, and significant economic development opportunities at a time when they are needed most. The longer-term impact to Kentucky's world-renowned horse racing industry, including the breeding, farming, training, tourism, and other sectors it supports, is of even greater concern."

While Gov. Andy Beshear (Democrat) supports legislation that would define HHR as legal and a number of prominent lawmakers in the Republican-controlled General Assembly also have have noted their support, no legislation has yet been introduced. KEEP is confident legislation will be introduced.

"Unfortunately, a recent (September) ruling by the Kentucky Supreme Court has put historical horse racing—and our entire industry—in jeopardy," KEEP said earlier this month. "Now, we need the General Assembly to act quickly and address the simple fixes outlined by the court. Legislation will soon be introduced to do just that."

Most of the legislative work at this year's session is expected in February (17 legislative days) and March (nine legislative days).