Kentucky senate committee approves historical horse racing bill

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HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) – A Kentucky senate bill allowing historic horse racing machines at Ellis Park and other tracks will go to the full senate. That’s after a senate committee approved the bill this morning.

Ellis Park officials say 190 of those HHR machines are currently in use, but there were as many as 300 used before the pandemic.

The state supreme court recently declared the machines illegal, but the bill keeping those machines running cleared its first hurdle at today’s senate hearing.

“We rely on the success of tracks like Turfway Park and Ellis park to feed our families,” said horse trainer Tom Drury during the hearing in Frankfort.

Bill supporters say the machines are one way tracks like Ellis Park can generate enough revenue. General Manager Jeff Inman says players make a wager and on some machines, either choose numbers or let a computer choose them automatically. The numbers are based off the horses that ran in races in the past at tracks in Kentucky and around the country. All historical races are chosen at random.

“When you look, there’s animation of past races that take place on the top of the machine as the game is played,” Inman described.

The state senate license and occupational committee voted to move it to the full senate. Supporters say they help bring more visitors and more revenue.

“Senate Bill 120 is critical to keeping Kentucky’s racing circuit growing and competitive with other states in the industry,” said Kelli Pendleton of the Christian County Chamber of Commerce.

Opponents say the bill bends state law to the horse racing industry’s will.

“We are being asked in this bill to bring the law into alignment with the actions of the tracks, and in doing so, making a mockery of the system,” said Martin Cochran of the Family Foundation of Kentucky during the hearing.

Inman says having the bill move forward means a step forward for the industry, and for their expansion plans.

“We have plans to expand and we can’t get that expansion done without the changes made in that bill,” he says.

As for if the bill becomes law, Inman says he is cautiously optimistic about it passing both chambers. This year’s general assembly session is only for 30 days.

(This story was originally published on February 4, 2021)

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