LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Red Mile Gaming & Racing turned on its historic horse racing machines on Sunday after temporarily shutting down operations in late January.
On Jan. 25, Keeneland and Red Mile announced their terminals would be temporarily closed after the state Supreme Court denied a petition for rehearing on a case deeming the gaming terminals illegal under Kentucky law.
The Supreme Court ruled HHR machines did not meet the Commonwealth’s definition of pari-mutuel wagering, which is the type of wagering in live horse racing.
After weeks of uncertainty, Red Mile employees are breathing a sigh of relief.
“It was a disappointing and frightening experience that day that we decided to shut down. But right now, we are feeling so hopeful, optimistic, and happy,” said Mary Catherine Jones, the company’s marketing director.
On Thursday, Senate Bill 120 cleared both chambers of the Kentucky legislature. The bill restructures the state’s definition of pari-mutuel wagering to include HHR machines.
“Everyone felt really excited to be back at work and to know they have a paycheck coming. They don’t have to worry about unemployment. They don’t have to worry about whether or not they’re going to get their money. They have a job,” Jones said.
The multi-billion dollar historic horse racing industry employs thousands of people across the state, including approximately 275 in Lexington.
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.
“We won the argument, but lost the fight,” said Family Foundation spokesman Martin Cothran following the passing of SB 120.
Some critics, including The Family Foundation, have condemned the bill as being unconstitutional, saying the legalization of HHR machines should be voted on through a constitutional amendment.
Meanwhile, some supporters countered saying the consequences of not preserving the horse industry through the legislation could debilitate the economy.
Having passed both state chambers, SB 120 will now go to Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk.