Fate of Ellis Park could be in jeopardy after Kentucky Supreme Court decision

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HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) – After a ruling from the Kentucky Supreme Court, the future of Ellis Park appears to be in question. The state supreme court decided to temporarily halt historical horse racing machines, which allow people to bet on past horse races. And if state lawmakers do not act, Ellis officials say the 99-year-old track could be in jeopardy of closing.

“In September the Supreme Court ruled that these devices don’t meet the standard of historical racing,” said Jeff Inman, Ellis Park general manager.

Inman has worked in the industry for more than 30 years and now his main concern is just keeping the doors open at Ellis Park. In September, a declaration came in a 7-0 decision by the Kentucky Supreme Court striking down historical horse racing.

The Family Foundation echoed this notion saying, “The Family Foundation is grateful to the justices for seeing through the smokescreen generated by the tracks and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission that for years has masked a form of gambling that ignored the clear legal definition of parimutuel betting.”

For more than 10 years, historical horse racing in Kentucky has been a large draw at Ellis Park. But now, it awaits its fate as it sits in the hands of lawmakers. Without HHR, Inman said Ellis Park cannot remain open.

“Right now these HHR units are what is keeping Ellis alive and what is supporting the thoroughbred industry of the commonwealth of Kentucky,” he said.

Last week, the re-hearing requested by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission was turned down by the court. Ellis Park now looks to its supporters for help.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear offered his support.

“Speaking of laws, that unduly restrict us from growth and innovation, it is time to pass sports betting and save horse racing,” he said in his State of the Commonwealth address.

“We have a lot of support, we have a lot of people who have coming here and sitting in the same seats for 40 and 50 years, we have a lot of support a lot of loyal customers behind it’s really important for us to continue to offer a quality racing in this area,” Inman said.

Inman said they have big plans for their 100th year including a $65 million expansion. All of this pending what happens when the legislature reconvenes on Feb. 2.

(This story was originally published on January 26, 2021)

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