Fightin' for the Kentucky Derby

Aug 6, 2009

Murray, KY – As we all know, the 2nd attempt to pass expanded gambling legislation in Kentucky made it out of committee only to fall short in the full legislature. Commentator Patience Renzulli is among those disappointed by the measure's failure. She says slots opponents have backed the wrong horse.

Somebody told me that people in this neck of the woods don't care much about the Kentucky Derby.

What? I think those are fightin' words.

People all over the world care about the Kentucky Derby.

When you hear the first Saturday in May, what comes to mind? When people from around the world hear Kentucky, they think Derby! The race was first run in 1875, and it is the oldest, continuously held sporting event in the United States.

Today, the Derby has an economic impact on our state of 217 million dollars. How much? 217 million.

But why am I talking about the Kentucky Derby, out here in Western Kentucky in the summertime?

Because it's in danger. You heard about that bill to allow slots at KY racetracks dying in committee? Well, no, HB2 didn't die. It was killed. Maryland hosts the second jewel in the Triple Crown, the Preakness. The Maryland legislature killed bills allowing slots at Maryland tracks for years. Now Maryland horse racing is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This April the idiot politicians in Maryland had to pass emergency legislation to buy Pimlico Race Track and the Preakness itself using tax payer's money, or else the race was going to go to Pennsylvania.

Which, by the way, has slots.

So here's the deal. I know this is a shocking secret, but people go to the horse races to bet.

And, more shocking, even though those self-righteous morality legislating politicians in Annapolis tried their best to protect Marylanders from themselves by not allowing slot machines at the Maryland tracks, those very same Marylanders simply go to Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware tracks where there are slots.

The horse industry in those states is thriving.

Now here in Kentucky, the horse capital of the world, our very own self-righteous morality legislating politicians in Frankfurt have proven to be just as brilliant as their brethren in Maryland. Well, less so, because the Frankfurters have the sad example of what happened to Maryland racing staring them in their collectively clueless faces.

Horses stabled in Kentucky are being vanned to Pennsylvania, Indiana and West Virginia to race for larger purses, generated by slots. Mares are leaving Kentucky by the thousands to be bred to stallions in states like Pennsylvania, because of slots funded breeder bonus programs. Those foals will race in Pennsylvania for slots-incentivized Pennsylvania bred purses.

The horse industry is currently Kentucky's top agricultural cash crop. Eighty to one hundred thousand direct and indirect jobs are generated by our state's horse industry. You can go to to find out how your representative voted on HB2. And before it's too late you can encourage them to support Kentucky's horse industry by allowing slots at Kentucky's tracks, where people already go to have a fun time and to place their bet.

We don't make driving a car illegal in Kentucky because some people drive irresponsibly. The vast, vast majority of Kentuckians are perfectly capable of being in charge of themselves. Whether it's on the road or at a racetrack.

Kentucky without horseracing? I don't ever want to hear that Kentucky was once the horse capital of the world, because of a bunch of politicians. I think my friend was wrong. I think people in these parts do care.

Renzulli is a member of The Dog Writers Association of America. She's published two books of essays, and is finishing a novel. You can enjoy her stories at her blog,