Newport Gaming and Racing CDI photo

Newport Gaming and Racing offers 500 "Vegas-style" historical horse racing machines. The Churchill Downs-owned venue opened Oct. 2, 2020.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - The conservative Family Foundation of Kentucky is asking the Kentucky Supreme Court take up a 10-year legal battle over slots-like historical horse racing for the third time, arguing the Frankfort judge overseeing the case recently did a "favor" for the horseracing tracks that own the gaming facilities.

The Family Foundation isn't directly challenging SB 120, which the GOP-dominated state legislature passed earlier this year to ensure that the slots-like gaming remains legal in Kentucky.

Instead, the group's appeal centers on ancillary issues, primarily whether racetracks should be given protection from liability for operating casino-like gaming venues during the 10 years before the Supreme Court ruled last year that the games don't constitute a legal form of wagering in Kentucky.

"Here we spent 10 years on this thing, and the trial court judge tries to write in favors for the other side," said the Family Foundation's Martin Cothran.

Cothran was referring to a line in a judgment entered by Judge Thomas Wingate of Franklin Circuit Court in March.

Wingate was charged with implementing the Supreme Court's decision from September 2020, in which the high court said the type of gaming system examined in the case did not comport the concept of pari-mutuel horse betting.

Wingate wrote that the judgment "shall not have retroactive application because the racing associations (tracks) were operating systems of wagering duly authorized and permitted by" the state horse racing commission and were not violating any court order.

WDRB News reported in January that racetracks faced at least two lawsuits from gamblers alleging that they lost money at the hands of operations that were illegal at the time.

Wingate's language "is a huge favor for them because they know they are exposed on this," Cothran said.

Jay Ingle, the Lexington attorney who primarily argued on behalf of the racetracks at the Supreme Court last year, did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, the Family Foundation hasn't decided whether to mount another legal challenge to the overall operation of historical horse racing, which is now on firm legal footing after lawmakers stepped in to save the industry.

The foundation has argued that it would take an amendment to the Kentucky Constitution to allow the gaming, which horse industry officials dispute. 

Cothran said filing a lawsuit to press the constitutional argument is "an option" for the foundation.

"The case is complicated and so we are just trying to work through what would be involved. Court cases are expensive and time-consuming and we don’t have the kind of money that the other side has," he said.

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2021 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.