The Kentucky House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 120 Friday to legalize historical horse racing machines, a small win in the battle for the Oak Grove Racing, Gaming & Hotel in Christian County. The bill previously passed the state senate and now goes to Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk.
“SB 120 ensures that the facilities will remain open and resume operations as they are.” said Christian County Chamber of Commerce CEO Kelli Pendleton.
Pendleton testified at the Senate Licensing and Occupations hearing on Feb. 4 in support of the bill.
Last year, the Supreme Court of Kentucky unanimously ruled that the various forms of wagering on historical horse racing didn’t meet the state’s standards of pari-mutuel wagering. Some historical racing facilities closed after the ruling, but the facility in Oak Grove remained open.
Pendleton described the serious talks she had with the Oak Grove Gaming management discussing a plan for what would happen following the Supreme Courts’ ruling. She said that the Oak Grove Racing, Gaming & Hotel was a $150 million investment into the community bringing 400 new jobs and three new housing developments to the county.
“You’ve increased tourism (and are) seeing the trickle-down effect,” she said. “You’re seeing other restaurants and businesses seeing an increase in benefits from Oak Grove Gaming.
“I cannot even imagine the signal it would send to other states and the country to shut down that facility that has brought so much growth and goodness to our community.”
Many horse industry leaders released statements in support of SB 120 and the passing vote in the Senate. Owners of the Oak Grove facility, Churchill Downs Incorporated, Keeneland, Ellis Entertainment LLC, Red Mile Racetrack and Kentucky Downs applauded the bill’s passage.
“The future of the Commonwealth’s signature industry and those who support it is secure,” the group stated in a news release.
The statement continued to express gratitude to the bill’s sponsors as well as mentioning that the revisions for the tax structure is not done.
“On behalf of the Commonwealth’s race tracks, we also confirm and reiterate our discussions with Governor Beshear, Minority Leader McGarvey and Minority Leader Jenkins that we will work constructively to revise and raise the tax structure on historical racing machines, including consideration of a fair and equitable graduated tax structure,” the release stated.
The Kentucky Equine Education Project also released a statement thanking the House for passing the bill.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling on (historical horse racing) last year brought major uncertainty to our employees, local businesses, communities and our industry as a whole…,” the news release stated. “With the passage of SB 120, we are confident about the future of Kentucky racing and our ability to continue bringing new jobs and economic growth to our communities across the commonwealth.”