NewsCovering Kentucky


Red Mile feels impact of historical horse racing shutdown

Posted at 7:46 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 19:46:23-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Historical horse racing is a billion dollar industry for Kentucky.

But after the state Supreme Court made a decision on their legality under the law, then later denied a petition for a rehearing, hundreds of terminals are shut down.

On Sunday, Keeneland and Red Mile announced that their historical horse racing terminals would be temporarily closing.

"We shut down all 900 of our historical horse racing terminals and we have 302 employees that right now, are very concerned they don't have a job to come back to," said Mary Catherine Jones, the marketing director at Red Mile.

Jones says the installation of the machines last decade helped to revitalize the old track.

"Not only is this the rebirth of Red Mile the race track, but it's the rebirth of Standardbred racing in Kentucky by enabling us to build up our purse money," said Jones.

Jones says the impact of shutting down affects many aspects of the horse industry.

“It is a trickle-down effect that is massive and truly affects this entire state," said Jones.

Jones says the track's future finances now depend on the action of lawmakers in Frankfort.

On Monday morning, Republican state Rep. Adam Koenig tweeted in reference to the statement from Red Mile and Keeneland, "This has to get done and I have been and continue to be fully committed to getting this done."

The General Assembly does not resume until next week, so we caught up with Koenig from his northern Kentucky home.

With the state's revenue impacted by the pandemic and a budget that needs to be passed, Koenig says there's a lot at stake.

"There's the revenue hole that will happen if this bill doesn't pass and all these historical racing machines have to shut down," said Koenig.

Just last year, Koenig led the charge to legalize sports wagering, an effort that failed. Now, he says his priority is to pass legislation to reopen the machines.

"We're getting a lot of support. More than I expected from the people I've talked to in the legislature. But the Family Foundation hasn't really brought out the big guns and hasn't whipped up their base to try to kill it yet," said Koenig.

The Family Foundation is the group that challenged the legality of the terminals, ultimately ending in the Supreme Court's decision that historic horse racing was not covered under Kentucky law.

"So in an interesting way, the gambling industry gamble, and they lost. And they're experiencing what Kentucky citizens have over these last ten years losing $800 million," said Kent Ostrander with the Family Foundation.

There are less than two dozen days left in the legislative session, but Koenig says he expects a bill to be introduced from the Senate soon.

"I am optimistic that we'll have success in getting it passed and remedying this Supreme Court ruling that we were surprised at and came out of the blue," said Koenig.