Judges need old-fashioned horse sense to resolve gambling dispute


There’s no mistaking a race horse. They’re big, long-legged creatures with smooth coats, flowing manes, and they make a unique neighing sound.

So, it defies logic that Kentucky judges could possibly be duped into believing that big square boxes tricked out with lights and screens and buttons are horses.

Yet, lawyers for Kentucky’s horse tracks seem to be attempting to do just that.

Here’s the situation: Kentucky’s Constitution bans casino-style gambling but allows pari-mutuel betting on horse races. With that paradox in mind, lawyers for Kentucky horse tracks have created one of the most ridiculous ruses of all times, by bringing in what for all intents and purposes are slot machines and arguing in court that they’re actually horse racing machines.

They easily fooled the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission into believing this in 2010. Since then, they’ve been attempting to hoodwink the state’s judges.

For folks unfamiliar with gambling, “pari-mutuel” describes the process in which money wagered on horse races is pooled and split among winning bettors, minus a percentage that the horse tracks keep for themselves.

The machines in question have tiny screens that show videos of horses races. Therefore, lawyers for the horse tracks argue dropping money into them is actually pari-mutuel betting.

It’s total cockamamy. But the horse tracks apparently believe they have a sure thing, having invested tens of millions dollars into betting parlors chock full of these machines.

Executives of Churchill Downs, the famous Louisville horse track, announced a couple weeks ago that they would hire up to 200 employees for Derby City Gaming, a $65 million facility that will house 900 of the machines.

The confidence Churchill Downs shows by making such a financial investment seems to suggest management believes justice truly is blind.

Interestingly, the races shown
on the tiny screens are so old that many of the horses shown are no longer even alive. State regulations were written to govern "live horse races." How can a live horse race involve dead horses?

Some of the machines
also play animated horse races – essentially cartoons without humor.

Lexington attorney Stan Cave has been fighting this lunacy for years now, trying to explain the obvious to the state’s judges. It’s a daunting task for one lawyer battling the strongest team of litigators the horse industry could pull together. But don’t count Cave out. He’s tenacious. He’s intelligent. He’s tough as nails. And he’s determined to win.

Truth is, judges need nothing more than old-fashioned horse sense to see this subterfuge for what it is.

Until these machines can make their way into the starting gate under their own power, with jockeys astride, and thunder around the oval, kicking sand as they go, they shouldn’t be contrived to be pari-mutuel.


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