WHITLEY COUNTY — Officials are hopeful that the proposed horse racing facilities in Corbin and Williamsburg will continue moving forward despite the announcement from Keeneland and Red Mile that their historical racing operations would temporarily be closed after the Kentucky Supreme Court declined their petition to rehear a case regarding the legality of some games.
Last year, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that at least some forms of historical race wagering did not meet the standard for pari-mutuel wagering. And last week, the high court declined to reconsider its previous ruling.
The ruling stems from a dispute between racing interests and The Family Foundation, a conservative group that opposes expanded gambling. The foundation argued that historical horse racing machines do not meet pari-mutuel wagering standards under Kentucky law while attorneys for racing interests have insisted that historical horse racing is a valid form of wagering.
Keeneland and Red Mile released the following statement Sunday on the Kentucky Supreme Court’s decision not to rehear the case:
“We were disappointed the Kentucky Supreme Court denied our petition for rehearing. At this time, Keeneland and Red Mile have made the very difficult decision to temporarily close historical horse racing operations until there is more clarity surrounding the situation. We have confidence the Kentucky legislature will continue its efforts to protect jobs and state revenue generated by historical horse racing, as well as protect Kentucky’s signature horse racing industry.”
Bruce Carpenter, the Director of the Southern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the Corbin Industrial Development Commission said he was aware of both the Supreme Court’s decision, and Keeneland’s decision concerning historical waging at its Red Mile facility.
Carpenter said both sides, Keeneland and Corbin, were now waiting to see what will happen next in Frankfort.
“We feel like the legislatures will take that up into session and pass something that will allow that as a legislative act,” Carpenter told the Times-Tribune.
When asked about the future of the track coming to Corbin, Carpenter said he was still hopeful that it could happen.
“I’m still very optimistic it’s going to continue to become a reality,” he said.
Despite this decision, Keeneland Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Vince Gabbert told the Times-Tribune on Monday that he is hopeful that the Corbin and Williamsburg racing facilities will not be affected.
“We are disappointed in the ruling by the Supreme Court and their denial of a rehearing on the issue,” said Gabbert. “However, it has not dampened our enthusiasm for the projects in Corbin and Williamsburg and we are committed to a legislative remedy that would allow the projects to move forward. And we will be working to address the issue as the legislature reconvenes next week.”
The Republican-led legislature will resume its 2021 session next week.
Keeneland and its new partnership with the majority owners of Kentucky Downs announced in September a plan for a Standardbred racing facility in Corbin as well as a sister facility in Williamsburg.
Keeneland has been in talks with the City of Corbin for several years with different visions for the racetrack from Thunder Gap for quarter horse racing in 2015 to Cumberland Run that was a partnership between Keeneland and Churchill Downs announced in 2017.
On Oct. 20, 2020, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission met and approved the license application for race dates for a Corbin facility.
Now the proposed facility would be a harness racing facility. The track is planned to be located at the land purchased by Keeneland off the Corbin bypass and the related track extension in Williamsburg will be off Exit 11.
By Emily Adams-Bentley