Historical racing operations temporarily closing at Red Mile

Published: Jan. 24, 2021 at 11:38 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2021 at 11:56 AM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Historical racing operations at Red Mile will temporarily close.

Red Mile and Keeneland released a statement about the closure Sunday, Jan. 24.

“We were disappointed the Kentucky Supreme Court denied our petition for rehearing. At this time, Keeneland and Red Mile have made the very difficult decision to temporarily close historical horse racing operations until there is more clarity surrounding the situation,” the statement said. “We have confidence the Kentucky legislature will continue its efforts to protect jobs and state revenue generated by historical horse racing, as well as protect Kentucky’s signature horse racing industry.”

In September of last year, The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled some historical racing machines in the Commonwealth are not legal. The machines are used at Red Mile, Kentucky Downs and Ellis Park.

Closing down the historical horse racing machines at Red Mile may be new, but the Family Foundation of Kentucky said it’s something they’ve wanted to see happen for years.

“The racetracks went and brought the case to the courts, asking are these machines legal. But they did not wait for the court to answer. They went ahead and built buildings, installed machines and began raking in money,” said Executive Director of the Foundation, Kent Ostrander.

Putting a $2 billion gaming industry in jeopardy.

“These machines were sold to the Court, we believe wrongfully, that they were pari-mutuel. In other words, there’s a group of people wagering among themselves,” Ostrander said.

Pari-mutuel gaming, done during live horse racing, is legal in the state. Casino gambling is not. The Supreme Court ruled the historical racing machines are not pari-mutuel, therefore, not legal.

By declining to re-hear the case, the court’s decision stands. Red Mile and Keeneland representatives declined an interview, but in a statement said they’re disappointed the Court won’t reconsider. And they’re shutting down the HHR operations until there’s ‘more clarity surrounding the situation.’

In August, Governor Andy Beshear said the state ‘needs’ historical horse racing.

“It has allowed us to be competitive with some other states that are still taking hundreds of millions of Kentucky’s entertainment dollars and spent it on their roads and health care. It has helped shore up the horse industry that was facing challenging times before it. I think we need it as a state to be ruled Constitutional.”

According to the Courier Journal, Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, a Republican, has also said he’s working to find ‘a path forward’ for the facilities.

In the meantime, these ‘races’ won’t be running.

The future of the machines at Kentucky Downs and Ellis Park is unknown.

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