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Kentucky Race Wagering

Horse racing dates back to 1789 in Kentucky and is a rich part of the state's history. Kentucky offers thoroughbred racing, harness racing, quarter-horse racing, Appaloosa horse racing and Arabian horse racing. All pari-mutuel betting is regulated by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC).

Instant racing, or historical horse racing, has been a controversial issue in Kentucky since 2011. Instant racing allows bettors to place wagers on previously run horse races using a slot-machine-like device. The KHRC has ruled that the game is legal because bets are pooled against other players and not against the house. The Kentucky Attorney General's office considers instant racing legal because it is a form of pari-mutuel wagering. The KHRC adopted regulations to manage the new type of gaming in August 2011.

The legality of the game has been challenged in court for the last couple years. The Family Foundation of Kentucky and other opponents say it's a slot machine. Kentucky law forbids wagering outside of pari-mutuel wagering, the lottery and charitable gambling. In February 2014, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the KHRC has the authority to license and regulate instant racing. The court also ruled that the Franklin Circuit Court (a lower court) needs to decide if instant racing is pari-mutuel wagering or not. No decision has been made thus far.

Despite the controversy, Kentucky Downs has been operating the games since September 2011 and Ellis Downs since September 2012.


In 2014, the Franklin Circuit Court ruled that the racing commission had the authority to license and regulate historical horse racing, but the anti-gambling activists appealed the decision. This appeal reached the Kentucky Supreme Court, which ruled in February 2014 that the Horse Racing Commission could authorize parimutuel wagering on historical races, but remanded the case for further proceedings to determine whether the terminals meet the definition of parimutuel wagering.

In 2020, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that at least the Exacta Systems product was not parimutuel.

In 2021, state legislators updated the definition of parimutuel wagering to explicitly allow historical horse racing, citing its importance to the states racing industry.

Kentucky Race Wagering Properties

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