Instant Racing Article 10-2010

October 2010 – Opinion

“Live racing” with dead horses

It evidently is a scientific break-through . . . Just what will they think of next?

201010 CThere is good news for horse racing: euthanizing horses may no longer necessarily end their racing career. At least not if the Beshear administration has its way.

While it has always been thought that “live racing” involved living, breathing horses making a dash for the finish line, state bureaucrats are now arguing that “live racing” can actually involve dead horses.

In a brief filed by the Kentucky Department of Revenue lawyers with the Franklin Circuit Court, they argue that current laws allowing them to collect taxes on “money wagered on live races at the track” can be interpreted to allow them to collect taxes on money wagered on slot-machine-like games called “Instant Racing.” Instant racing involves betting on the outcome of videos of old races, which include horses that long ago assumed room temperature.

We now go live, so to speak, to Louisville Courier-Journal reporter Greg Hall, who must have thought he had fallen down the rabbit hole when he read the Department’s brief. Filed in early September, the brief asks the court to go along with its interpretation of the state’s pari-mutuel excise tax, which would allow it to tax Instant Racing revenues. Here are some of his remarks:

The Department argues that state law does not define “live racing,” and that all forms of gambling at tracks not specifically exempted by the legislature are covered by the tax.

“From the perspective of a wagerer, a historic horse race is very much ‘live’ – the wagerer does not know the outcome of the historical horse race in advance any more than a wagerer at a track knows the outcome of a race physically conducted at that track,” the eight-page brief says. “Consequently, in this context, ‘live’ simply means ‘being in play’ or ‘of continuing or current interest.’”

Now, since the Revenue Department’s lawyers apparently neglected to do it, I have taken the liberty of checking a dictionary for the definition of the word “live.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines the adjective “live” as “living.” Imagine that.

As far as I can determine, no dictionary defines “live” as “pre-recorded many years ago and having no possible relation to anything actually going on now except if it involves a way for someone to make money.”

And “live” isn’t the only word with which the regulatory agencies have had their way in writing regulations to allow Instant Racing. In fact, what we seem to have here is a wholesale redefinition of words. According to The Family Foundation’s attorney, Stan Cave, the term ‘pari-mutuel’ “is a contraction combining the French verb ‘parier,’ meaning ‘to wager,’ and the French word ‘mutuel,’ which may be translated as ‘between ourselves.’. . . In wagering on previously run horse races, however, there is no ‘ourselves,’” since bets placed by different bettors never go into the same pool.

In other words, Instant Racing may be “pari,“ but it ain’t “mutuel.”

But this is a French word. Maybe that’s the trouble. Current laws define “pari-mutual” wagering as betting of future, contingent events.  “Future” meaning, roughly, the “future,” and not the past.  “Contingent” meaning “not non-contingent.” It is bad enough that words must take on political meanings in electoral politics, but when it happens in the actual process of statutory revision and the drafting of administrative regulations, it is positively corruptive.

In order to pass this regulation, the proponents will not only have to change the law; they’ll have to change the English language. It is either that or, as Cave pointed out, they must change reality. “[F]or betting on videos of previously run horse races to be pari-mutuel,” said Cave, “both continuums of time and space must be defied.”

Through his theory of relativity, Albert Einstein changed the definition of time and space. But the difference is that Einstein was qualified to redefine time and space; the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is not.

We have witnessed in this state a corruption of the executive branch with millions of dollars of casino money funding campaigns through 527s, and those with ties to BOPTROT showing up in the state’s capitol to push new gambling legislation. We have also seen that same money being funneled into state legislative campaigns. And we’ve also seen the corruptive influence that gambling money brings in the process of legislation itself, when legislators are threatened with being left out of lucrative projects if they don’t vote the right way or when uncooperative committee members are taken off of committees in order to silence dissent.

Every part of the process has its own way of being corrupted. The way the regulatory process is corrupted is through the redefinition of words themselves.

And that’s exactly what they’re trying to do now.


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