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State Capitol

Red Mile Historical Horse Racing Re-Opening Following Legislative Action

The Red Mile Historical Horse Racing facility is scheduled to reopen Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m.  The Lexington operation, featuring hundreds of betting machines, pushed pause in late January after the Kentucky Supreme Court denied a request for a rehearing.  The state’s highest court ruled last fall some of the HHR machines were illegal. 

First the Kentucky Senate and Friday the House easily approved legislation defining parimutuel wagering to include historical horse racing.  That means a return to work for 300 employees at the Red Mile facility.  Red Mile HHR Spokesperson Mary Catherine Jones said it’s a relief for workers, but also welcomed by patrons. “You know I get messages all day, every day from out guests that are just, that miss our employees, that miss our food, that just miss the experience of being here.  So that’s really what we’re focusing on right now,” said Jones. 

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Jones said between 15 hundred and 2000 patrons might visit the HHR parlor on a Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 a.m. Sunday. 

Representatives of the Family Foundation argued the legislation does not meet constitutional requirements.  Foundation Spokesman Martin Cothran said continuation of this form of wagering will, over time, hurt horse racing.  Cothran said, quote, “horses are fast but slot machines are a lot faster.  There’s a lot more money in it.  It’s a lot more efficient.” 

Cothran noted further legal action is an option, but added it’s an expensive one.   “There’s certainly a road to stopping it, but the question is are you able and willing to go through another long court fight,” said Cothran. 

Cothran said, if pursued, it probably wouldn’t mean a decade long court battle, like the first one that ended last September. 

Representatives from several horse industry groups are praising Kentucky lawmakers for their action on the bill.  Governor Beshear has yet to sign the bill, but he’s expected to in the coming days.

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