Historic Horse Racing bill passes full Senate and House committee, moves to final legislative step

After a heated floor debate Tuesday afternoon, the Senate passed a bill that would keep historical horse racing in Kentucky by a vote of 22-15, sending the measure on to the House of Representatives. The next morning, the House Licensing and Occupations Committee passed the legislation.

Senate Bill 120, sponsored by Senator John Schickel, will allow historical horse racing operations to continue at the state’s licensed horse tracks. The legislation is in response to a Kentucky Supreme Court decision made in September of 2020 that threatened the legality of historic horse racing in Kentucky.

“Historical horse racing has allowed Kentucky’s horse industry to expand and flourish at a time when other states have struggled,” said Schickel in his presentation of the bill on the Senate floor. “Senate Bill 120 is a bill that will support real jobs and real families.”

More than 1,400 jobs across the Commonwealth have been created in recent years as a direct result of historic horse racing, with companies investing nearly $1 billion in facilities in Kentucky.

“This bill will provide certainty for many Kentucky businesses and employees relying on the success of the horse industry to make a living and feed their families,” said Ashli Watts, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. “In a time of record unemployment, the last thing we need to do is lose more, good-paying jobs in the Commonwealth.”

Damon Thayer, a longtime champion for pro-horse racing issues, said that historic horse racing has allowed Kentucky to remain competitive with surrounding states.

“Because of the rise in purses from historic horse racing, we are on the cusp of being the most competitive racing circuit in North America,” Thayer said in discussion on the Senate floor.

In the House committee hearing, advocates emphasized there are 60,000 people that rely on the industry and many operations won’t survive without the purse money that comes in large part from the revenue generated by historical horse racing.

The legislation mainly adds to statute the classic principles of parimutuel wagering and addresses issues seen by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Senate Bill 120 now moves to the full House for a vote on the floor.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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