Kentucky Supreme Court rules HHR machines illegal

The Supreme Court voted 7-0 that the machines are illegal.
The Supreme Court voted 7-0 that the machines are illegal.

Historial Horse Racing machines have been banned on the grounds that they are not a form of pari-mutual wagering.

US.- The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that the racetracks’ popular Historical Horse Racing machines (HHR) are illegal.

The court’s decision, a 7-0 vote, is expected to have a detrimental effect on the state’s two-billion-dollar gaming industry, particularly affecting Kentucky Downs and Keeneland tracks.

The HHR machines work by randomly selecting three past horse races and creating the bettor’s odds based on those elections.

The court made its ruling based on definitions of pari-mutual wagering, in which all bets are pooled together so that bettors are essentially wagering among themselves.

While this system of wagering is legal in Kentucky, the court argued that the machines are not a form of pari-mutual wagering because bettors are not always wagering on the same races.

The court also found it problematic that the betting pools were not established by the betting patrons.

Supreme Court representative Justice Laurance VanMeter said: “We acknowledge the importance and significance of this industry to this Commonwealth. We appreciate the numerable economic pressures that impact it.

“If a change, however, in the long-accepted definition of pari-mutuel wagering is to be made, that change must be made by the people of this Commonwealth through their duly-elected legislators, not by an appointed administrative body and not by the judiciary.”

The decision was taken based only on form of the machines – the Encore, or Exacta system – but is expected to apply to others, thought it is not clear what the next steps will be in implementing the decision.

Kentucky Equine Education Project executive vice president Elizabeth Jensen said: “Several racetracks have made significant investments based on the success of Historical Horse Racing over the last few years. I think this blind-sided pretty much everyone.

“It’s hard at the moment for everyone to get their arms around the long-term impact of this. Immediately, you have the hundreds of people working at HHR facilities that will be losing their jobs. The amount of money going to the purses will also be lost.”

The decision comes after a turbulent year for betting in the state. The Kentucky Derby’s wagering handle was down by 49.8 per cent from last year’s figures, representing the lowest handle in 18 years.