Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Court To Hear Arguments Over Historical Racing Machines

Public Domain

On Monday, a court will hear arguments over the legality of some electronic betting machines that base outcomes on horse races that have already taken place. Specifically, the arguments will deal with machines that use cartoon representations of the historical horse races (machines that use video of horse races are being dealt with in a separate lawsuit).

The Family Foundation of Kentucky has for years argued that both types of machines are illegal and technically just slot machines.

Kent Ostrander, executive director of the Kentucky Family Foundation, says that the cartoon machines — made by Encore Gaming — are required by state policy to use a video of the races.

“Not a video representation, not a cartoon, not a simulation, but an actual video of a horse race,” Ostrander said. “Since it doesn’t meet that standard, then it should be tossed out and they need to modify their game if they can.”

The machines — both cartoon and video — were approved by the Kentucky Racing Commission in 2010 but have been subject of an ongoing lawsuit brought on by the Family Foundation.

The Kentucky Supreme Court heard the case in 2014 but sent it back down to the Franklin Circuit Court to determine if the machines are in fact “parimutuel”— betting in which people can bet on the same “horse,” or outcome, and split the winnings.

The defendants in the case include several race tracks across the state and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

In a court filing, the KHRC said that the Family Foundation’s argument isn’t valid because the state Supreme Court only required the lower court to determine whether the machines are parimutuel, not evaluate whether the cartoon races count as a video of a horse race.

“Despite the Foundation’s assertions to the contrary, the issue before this court is not whether the computer generated graphical representation of a horse race approved for use on Encore terminals meets the definition of ‘video replay,’” the filing states.

“Instead, the issue, as clearly set forth in the conclusion of the Supreme Court’s opinion, is whether the licensed operation of wagering on historical horse racing constitutes a parimutuel form of wagering.”

The commission also argues that the phrase “video replay” isn’t limited to “actual film of a horse race.”

“The term is not so limited, nor should the Commission be bound to a single, stark definition of that term,” the filing states.

The racing organizations defending the case include Appalachian Racing, Churchill Downs, Ellis Park, Keeneland, Kentucky Downs, Lexington Trots Breeders Association, Bluegrass Downs and Turfway Park.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at