Instant Racing is Clearly Gambling Expansion

Instant racing terminal

The screen on an "instant racing" terminal. Patrons in Kentucky will see a whole three seconds of the race they just bet on.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, a governor-appointed board tasked with regulating the conduct of horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing and related activities in Kentucky, recently voted to allow the Kentucky Downs racetrack in Franklin to add slots-like machines to its gambling offerings. Click here to read the news story about the decision.

Given that the question of whether these machines are even legal is currently being litigated in the Kentucky courts, this was an extremely poor decision. The gambling industry has been seeking to expand gambling in the commonwealth for years now and this move represents just another tactic being used in the battle. The gambling industry ultimately wants to see full blown casinos with hundreds of slot machines draining the pockets of Kentucky citizens but since efforts to accomplish this through the state legislature have consistently failed thus far, proponents are now trying a backdoor approach.

The backdoor is “instant racing” through a pari-mutuel betting machine that allows patrons to vote on old horse races. (The horses themselves are often long dead.) The machine looks and acts much like a slot machine but the gambling industry is claiming that since betting on horse races is already legal, these new machines do not represent an “expansion” of gambling.

It’s unknown what the final outcome will be in the courts but there’s a saying that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. These machines look and act like slot machines and are a new gambling product designed to attract new customers. Common sense should therefore tell anyone that the machines clearly represent an expansion of gambling.  The gambling industry is simply trying to parse the language in an effort to create a legal loophole that will allow them to expand gambling without the approval of the General Assembly.

Gambling is a drain on a local economy so any expansion of gambling simply exacerbates this problem. Studies show that electronic gambling is extremely addicting and these machines have the ability to extract large sums of money from patrons in short order. This is why the gambling corporations are so big on having casinos filled with slot machines. When money goes into the pockets of a gambling corporation, it is no longer available to be used to buy groceries and other needed services in the local economy. Further, expanding gambling in this fashion fails to create jobs and actually detracts from the sport of horse racing as fans will be increasingly encouraged to spend their time betting on old horse races on a machine rather than watching the live event.

The legal waters are being tested in Franklin. If this gambling expansion is allowed to stand there, you can be sure that these machines will be popping up at every other racing venue in the state as well. And, if these machines become accepted, it simply makes it all the easier for other forms of gambling expansion to become accepted as well.

Kentucky Baptists should make this a matter of prayer and express their concerns to our legislators and to the governor. Ultimately, gambling expansion is a political issue. The members of the Kentucky Racing Commission are appointed by the governor and he and the members of the General Assembly are elected by the people.

Kentucky Baptists and Christians in general tend to be very passive on this and other important issues which often leads politicians to feel that is “okay” to take the actions they take. Failing to stand up and be counted regarding issues in the culture is an abdication of our responsibility to be “salt and light” in our world.

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