LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Supreme Court will step into a long-running dispute over whether a slot machine-like device is legal in the state when it hears oral arguments next month.
The high court on Wednesday set a hearing in the case for Aug. 21 in Frankfort. The state and The Family Foundation, which is challenging the Instant Racing game, were given 30 minutes each to make their case.
The game allows patrons to bet on past races without knowing the names of the trainers, jockeys or horses involved. Kentucky Downs in Franklin and Ellis Park in Henderson each offer the game.
The high court case will focus on whether Instant Racing is a pari-mutuel game, like horse racing, or more like slot machine gambling, which is not allowed in Kentucky. The court also will decide whether the Family Foundation got access to all the pre-trial information to which it was entitled.
Kentucky defines pari-mutuel racing as patrons betting among themselves and not against an association, with the net wagering pool returned to the winning patrons. Kentuckians are allowed to bet on horse racing, bingo, pull-tabs and lotteries, but lawmakers have resisted opening the state to other forms of gambling.
The Family Foundation challenged the legality of Instant Racing.
"We have maintained from the beginning that the facts of this case are essential in order to decide it properly and Instant Racing advocates have been opposed to those facts being known," said Family Foundation spokesman Martin Cothran.
The case has bounced around the court system for several years. In December 2010, Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate upheld a proposal allowing tracks to accept pari-mutuel bets on rebroadcasts of the old races.
The administration of Gov. Steve Beshear, along with horse track executives, sought the ruling on the legality of the regulations for Instant Racing, which was adopted by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. The Family Foundation of Kentucky argued that Instant Racing does not meet the state's legal definition of pari-mutuel wagering on horse races. The group also challenged how wagers are pooled, odds calculated and whether the state could collect taxes from the games.
In June 2012, the Kentucky Court of Appeals, by a 2-1 vote, sent the case back to Wingate with instructions to allow the Family Foundation of Kentucky and the state to explore several issues surrounding the game.
Because Wingate did not allow them to exchange evidence and flesh out the issues, it was impossible to tell what he relied on to uphold Instant Racing, Judge James H. Lambert wrote for the court.
The court didn't order an end to the game either at Kentucky Downs or Ellis Park. Both tracks continue to offer Instant Racing.
Kentucky Downs, which will host five days of live racing, has historical-race wagering machines that take in about $18 million to $20 million in wagers per month. Ellis Park takes in about $2 million a month in historical-race wagers. It opens July 4 for a 29-day live racing meet.
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