A bill supporting historical gaming machines has passed a Senate committee and is now heading into full Senate where it’s like to face strong opposition.
Small Success for Kentucky’s Historical Horse Racing Bill
Kentucky lawmakers have given their approval for a piece of legislation on Thursday, which would allow betting machines focusing on historical horse racing to stay intact across the state.
The bill, which received approval from the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee, is now headed to the Senate where it will have to face a broader opposition from legislators in the coming session.
However, there are friends of the measure, too, with Senate President Robert Stivers and Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer advocating for the bill.
The question still remains if Strivers and Thayer can actually influence the outcome of a vote in the upper house, as Republicans are most likely going to mount an opposition to the bill and possibly mothball it.
Anti-gambling sentiment has been strong among many residents and lawmakers. Clearing the Committee was an easy undertaking, said The Family Foundation’s Martin Cothran, but making it through Senate would be the real test of character.
Cothran has no desire to see the bill pass the Senate floor, and his organization has been advocating against gambling, and specifically slot-like machines that the Foundation believes are associated with the highest incidence of gambling addiction.
Why Are Lawmakers Scurrying to Pass a New Bill?
A previous ruling by Kentucky’s Supreme Court has effectively outlawed gaming machines that allow you to bet on historical horse racing because they are not pari-mutuel betting. However, withdrawing them immediately would have been a blow to the state’s beleaguered economy, and in light of covid-19, an extension was allowed.
An extension that legislators now want to use as an opportunity to define these gaming terminals as part of the already allowed pari-mutuel betting on historical horse racing in the state.
Naturally, not everyone agrees that slot-like machines are a form of pari-mutuel betting, and therein the rift between political and societal groups lies.
Are Historical Racing Machines Slots?
In a way, historical racing machines do resemble slot gaming. The premise of the product is simple. You go and place a bet using a slot-like mechanic on a past race. Then, a video of an animated race appears and you can watch how the game turns out, defining a winning or losing outcome.
The activity is a lifeline for many businesses, but as Cothran suggests, it may be the source of some economic distress to vulnerable individuals. According to the state, these gambling machines have generated as much as $2 billion in total bets staked in the previous fiscal year.
Much of the net tax paid on the revenue has been used to support the horse racing industry. Even now, the industry is in distress and struggling to survive. Kentucky needs to do more to guarantee that the state remains at the helm of horse breeding and the horse racing industry, as it’s already famed worldwide for the Kentucky Derby.
Horse racing communities also lead to job creation, claim industry insiders, who say that without the gaming terminals things can get bad for the industry very fast. Meanwhile, the Foundation has argued that even if the bill passes, a constitutional amendment would be needed to make them full legal.