To say the least, there has been a fair amount of concern over the Kentucky Supreme Court ruling unanimously that Historical Horse Racing is not in fact pari-mutuel wagering and therefore is illegal in Kentucky. Some wagering officials were so upset that they expressed concern that the ruling would bring down horseracing in the state, even though there is no direct connection between HHR and horseracing. Indeed, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear went so far as to announce that state government efforts, working with industry and wagering groups, are already at work to find a way to preserve HHR at all Kentucky racetracks.
What is HHR anyway and why are so many people up in arms about its continued availability? Historical Horse Racing, first of all, is not Off-Track Betting (OTB). OTB is an online network that allows players to wager on horseraces as the races are preparing to run. Essentially, it's the same as being at the track. Wagering shuts off when the gate opens and everyone—at the track and in OTB sites around the country—participates in a wagering pool, which is technically what makes OTB pari-mutuel wagering.
HHR, which has been known as Instant Racing or Exacta racing, is a form of wagering on races that have already been run. While the race was an actual event, the player has no idea of the specific track, jockey, or horse on which he is betting. Payoffs are the same as they were at the track for the actual race.
The Kentucky Supreme Court found that this type of wagering was illegal because the only legal horseracing in Kentucky is pari-mutuel betting. Because there is no wagering pool with HHR gaming, therefore, it cannot be considered pari-mutuel gambling. The machine itself resembles a slot machine. Indeed, in other states where HHR is permitted, it is typically relegated to the game machine area.
The gaming industry and Kentucky officials are upset because of the grave financial blow they will take if HHR shuts down. The state's tax revenues from HHR and similar wagering devices alone is $21 million.
The suit was brought by a conservative religious group, the Family Foundation, based in Richmond, Virginia. Lower courts had sided with the gaming industry until it reached the state Supreme Court.
Exacta Systems, creators of HHR, have announced that they are making revisions in the process of the game that will comply with the state's requirements for pari-mutuel wagering.
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