Proponents of a legislative rescue of historical horse racing predict job losses if gaming revenue dries up

Proponents of a legislative rescue of historical horse racing predict job losses if gaming revenue dries up
People who depend on horse racing for a living have some dire predictions of what might happen in Kentucky if the money suddenly disappears from historical horse racing. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - People who depend on horse racing for a living have some dire predictions of what might happen in Kentucky if the money suddenly disappears from historical horse racing.

”This is something that has to go for us to survive,” trainer Tom Drury said during a news conference Tuesday in Oldham County.

Part of the millions of dollars earned annually from historical horse racing machines subsidize purses, making it more profitable to race horses at Kentucky tracks.

Kentucky gamblers are expected to drop more than $3 billion into the slot-like machines in 2021, according to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. But instead of cherries and bananas, people bet on random horse races from the past. The legislature will attempt to keep the bells ringing after the Kentucky Supreme Court determined HHR is not allowed under current state law.

“We’re not talking about gaming,” said HHR supporter Marty Maline, Executive Director of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. “We’re talking about something that’s close to racing, and it’s worked well. And so, I think that more than anything, it’s just confusion, concern obviously about what happened here.”

Without the larger purses fueled by money from HHR, supporters said horses would leave for other states where tracks and purses are subsidized by casinos. If the horses go, they said, so do the jobs.

Some speculated that some tracks would close as a result and there would be less racing.

”Kentucky right now has a year-round circuit,” Steve Bittenbender, senior reporter for Casino.org. “You would probably still see some type of year-round circuit, but there would probably be gaps in there. Whereas right now there’s not.”

A press release from the Family Foundation, which opposes the attempt to rescue HHR, calls the matter an “Alice in Wonderland approach to a serious issue.” Others believe it should be banned entirely.

”These machines have been a judged as illegal, unlawful by the Kentucky Supreme Court,” Family Foundation Executive Director Kent Ostrander said. “And no one’s talking about when the tracks should return the money they have unlawfully taken.”

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