FRANKFORT, Ky. — A Senate committee signed off on Senate Bill 120 Thursday, a bill to legalize historical horse racing machines.

What You Need To Know

  • Senate Bill 120 legalizing historical horse racing machines moves forward

  • Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in September that these machines didn’t qualify as pari-mutuel betting

  • The bill passed unanimously in committee

  • The Senate isn't expected to take it up until next week

Members of the horse racing industry say the machines are a vital source of revenue.

“I can tell you guys, if this doesn’t go, we’re going to lose tracks, and we’re going to lose jobs, and we’re going to lose horses, and we’re going to lose people,” said horse trainer Tom Drury of Skylight Training Center.

Historical Horse Racing works like this: players use a machine that’s basically a slot machine, but the game is based on horse races that actually happened in the past, so for years, state regulators allowed them.

Kentucky allows what’s known as pari-mutuel betting on horse races, and the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in September that these machines didn’t qualify.

The Family Foundation led the charge against it.

Members of the Family Foundation argued against the historical horse racing machines during a committee meeting Thursday

“We think it’s harmful to the state constitutionally, culturally, and economically,” Family Foundation spokesman Martin Cothran said.

Cothran also argues a constitutional amendment is needed to make historical horse racing legal in Kentucky.

“We are being asked in this bill to bring the law into alignment with the actions of the tracks, and in doing so, making a mockery of the constitution,” Cothran said. “Even if this were the right thing to do, however, it’s not the right way to do it.”

Supporters of historical horse racing say it’s a necessary source of revenue for the state and the horse industry.

“There are tens of thousands of people out there that are depending on this industry,” Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville. “And they’re not just the ones, like has been said, that are at the race tracks every day; it’s those that are out working, trying to earn a living with their families.”

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, went as far as to say the Family Foundation was insulting the industry.

“As of today, I’ve been here 18 years; sworn in 18 years ago today, and I’ve never seen testimony that insulted an entire industry more than what I’ve heard here today,” Thayer said. “This testimony was overtly specious, and by that, I mean superficially plausible but actually wrong."

The bill passed unanimously in committee but the full Senate isn’t expected to vote on it until at least next week.

After the meeting, Cothran said he believes there will be more opposition in the House.