Truly, the fox is guarding the henhouse

Published 9:51 am Thursday, May 23, 2019

By Martin Cothran

Guest Columnist

When a report by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting (KyCIR) released an expose’ early in Derby week showing that the horse racing industry was paying for its own video gambling regulations, the state’s newspapers completely ignored the story.

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Maybe that was because KyCIR was doing the media’s job for them. Little reporting has been done on the problem of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and its chummy relationship with the industry it is supposed to be overseeing.

In fact, it’s rather hard to determining who is controlling whom when it comes to the Racing Commission and the horse racing tracks that have been opening and running gambling parlors in open defiance of the Constitution for several years now.

According to the KyCIR report, the tracks are basically regulating themselves when it comes to the slot machine-like “historic racing” machines. “[R]ecords show,” says the KyCIR report, “the state’s regulatory commission let the tracks themselves fund and oversee the consultant’s work.”

Three tracks and two machine manufactures paid $845,000 to test the machines “with virtually no direct oversight from the horse racing commission, according to a review by the office of the Auditor of Public Accounts.”

In any other regulatory circumstance, that could be considered bribery.

Maybe we should just be glad the people in charge of the Racing Commission aren’t running local health departments, otherwise we’d all be dead from salmonella poisoning.

I remember a realtor some years back who could get you a termite inspector who never found termites. And the realtor would just look the other way. But he’s got nothing on the Racing Commission, which “didn’t even have copies of the invoices from New Jersey-based Gaming Laboratories International until it gathered them for the auditor.”

In fact, KyCIR asked Steve May, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s director of pari-mutuel wagering and compliance, who claimed the Racing Commission had been reimbursed for the consulting costs, and KyCIR asked him for documentation of this last January:

“But KyCIR requested proof of that reimbursement in January — and still hasn’t received copies of the checks. The horse racing commission first said it didn’t have the records, referring reporters to the Finance and Administration Cabinet. But then the Cabinet said it didn’t have any records, either.”

The Racing Commission is a regulatory agency like Elizabeth Warren is a Cherokee.

The Racing Commission has always had an incestuous relationship with the racing industry, and people with vested interests in the industry frequently serve on the Commission. But they have not even had to try very hard to convince people they are an actual, real life, bona fide regulatory agency because some in the media – and a lot of other people – want so badly to believe they are.

Martin Cothran is the senior policy analyst for The Family Foundation.