Following a lengthy floor discussion, legislation to again allow historical horse racing in Kentucky cleared its final legislative hurdle Thursday night as it passed through the House with a 55-38 vote.
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.
Rep. Adam Koenig, who carried the bill on the House floor, said parimutuel has evolved over the years and the Kentucky Supreme Court is asking the legislature to supply a new law that reflects that evolution. Koenig added it is easy to point to the direct money and jobs that depend on historical horse racing but there are so many other jobs and areas that are impacted by the loss and the state will feel the impact financially, whether it is immediate or slow, which will have an effect on the state budget and more.
Rep. Matthew Koch said since the court decision, 225 jobs were lost at Red Mile, 1,400 jobs have been lost at historical horse racing facilities, as well as a loss of construction jobs and a year-round racing circuit. Koch stated historical horse racing has allowed one of Kentucky’s signature industries to grow by 102% in the last ten years which grows purses and helps the “little guys” in the industry. He said Senate Bill 120 is critical to helping the $5.2 billion annual economic impact of the thoroughbred industry.
The Kentucky Chamber released the following statement after passage of the bill:
“The Kentucky chamber applauds the General Assembly for passage of SB 120 legislation that protects our signature horse racing industry and the thousands of jobs it supports. Kentucky is known for its beautiful horse farms and iconic tracks and none of that is possible without the men and women who work in the industry. Tonight, we celebrate them and an industry that contributes more than $5 billion annually to our economy and to our heritage known worldwide.”
Senate Bill 120 has now passed through both the Senate and the House and now moves to the governor’s desk.