By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — The controversial issue of instant racing is headed to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
The state’s highest court agreed Friday to review a ruling by the state Court of Appeals that returned the issue of instant racing to Franklin Circuit Court.
Kentucky’s horse racetracks and Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration had requested a review by the state Supreme Court.
The Beshear administration said it considered correct the Franklin Circuit Court ruling that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission had statutory authority to adopt a regulation permitting pari-mutuel wagering on historical horse races.
It had no immediate comment Friday on the Supreme Court decision to hear the case.
Instant racing, which is in place at Kentucky Downs in Franklin and Ellis Park in Henderson, allows players to bet on previously run races using devices that operate much like slot machines.
Through last September, almost $169 million had been wagered using instant racing machines in Kentucky. The tracks had received more than $11.4 million and had paid more than $2.5 million in pari-mutuel taxes. About $1.9 million had been contributed to various horse racing purses around the state.
The Family Foundation had challenged instant racing and won before the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst for The Family Foundation, said after the appellate court ruling that his group “would be stunned if the Supreme Court accepts review when, as the appellate court agreed, it is so clear that our basic constitutional due-process rights were denied.”
Cothran said Friday he was surprised that the high court accepted the case.
“It was headed back to the trial court where we were finally going to get to ask questions –something totally barred by the Franklin Circuit Court,” he said.
“Because the right of due process is so fundamental, by taking the case the Supreme Court may be signaling that it sees this case as nothing more than a rogue state agency attempting to legalize expanded gambling by regulation with no legislation or Constitutional amendment.”
Cothran added: “We remain confident that we will prevail.”
Six members of the Supreme Court agreed to the review. Justice Wil Schroder did not hear the request for the review.