Kentucky Gov. Beshear seeks 'path forward' after court ruling deals horse industry 'a death blow'

By Janet Patton, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Horse Racing

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously ruled that at least some slot-like historical horse racing games being used by racetrack gambling parlors may not be legal.

A statement issued Thursday afternoon by Gov. Andy Beshear indicated that an effort may be underway to find a way to keep the games going.

"Historical Horse Racing is an important part of Kentucky's economy that supports jobs and contributes over $21 million to the state budget," Beshear said in the statement. "We are working with various partners to find a path forward."

The opinion, written by Justice Laurance B. VanMeter, says that the Encore system (previously known as the Exacta system) "does not create a wagering pool among patrons such that they are wagering among themselves as required for pari-mutuel wagering."

In pari-mutuel wagering, such as on horse races, gamblers set the odds because they are betting against each other rather than against the house, as in casino gambling.

The only forms of legal gambling in Kentucky are pari-mutuel wagering on racing, charitable gaming such as bingo and the lottery. Casino gambling and slot machines are prohibited under the state constitution.


The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which regulates the games, does not have the authority to allow bets in which every patron is wagering on something different "without positive legislative action and sanction," the opinion said.

The opinion and order reverses the 2018 Franklin Circuit Court's approval of the Encore gaming system, and sends the case back, saying the court applied the wrong legal standard.

It is unclear what the immediate impact will be.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, called the court's decision "wrong" and "irresponsible" in a statement.


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