Interstate Racing and Wagering and Compact: Can 6 be Uniform?

By: Ashley Payne, Senior Staff Member

Kentucky Governor, Steve Beshear, “ceremonially signed into law the Interstate Racing and Wagering Compact” on May 2, 2011.[1] The act purports to “enable member states to act jointly and cooperatively to create more uniform, effective, and efficient practices, programs, rules, and regulations, and to facilitate the health and growth of the industry by simplifying the process of participating in live horse and greyhound racing and pari-mutuel wagering.”[2] The compact was proposed in response to threats of federal intervention.[3] The goal of the Compact is to make the laws of racing and wagering in each individual state uniform, which, in turn, would make it much easier on persons racing horses in those states to comply with the law. As one proponent put it, “even most casual football fans know that holding is a 10-yard penalty. So imagine the confusion there would be if holding was penalized at 15 yards in a game played in one state, five yards in another state, and not a penalty at all if played in a third state.”[4] While this example is extreme, it is exactly the type of situation the Compact is intended to prevent.

The Compact will allow those member states to “act jointly and cooperatively to create a more equitable and uniform” regulatory framework and the rules adopted will “have the force and effect of state rules or regulations.”[5] Should a member State not comply with the provisions of the Compact, another member state “may initiate legal action, in any state or federal Court,”[6] or may bring a legal action in the United States District Court to enforce compliance with the compact.[7]

This sounds great, right? While such a Compact is great in theory, in practice it may not work so well. As the Kentucky adoption of the Compact indicates, “this compact shall come into force when enacted by any (6) eligible states.”[8] There are currently 38 states that offer pari-mutuel wagering and racing.[9] It is difficult to fathom how the compact will provide the necessary uniformity to remedy the current problems when only six of those 38 states have to ratify the Compact. Clearly more than six states may ratify the compact, but if the Compact does not receive the anticipated support, it will not meet its ultimate goal of uniform rulemaking.

[1] Kentucky Governor’s Message, (May 2, 2011), available at{1ECEE2F0-9296-4BFB-822E-7B6D39DAB83C})

[2] Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. §230.3761(I)(A-B) (West 2011)

[3] Tom LaMarra, State Legislators Told Compact Viable Option, (July 29, 2010 8:21 AM),

[4] Denis Blake, Efforts to Create an Interstate Racing and Wagering Compact Underway, The Horsemen’s Journal, (Spring 2010),

[5] Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. §230.3761

[6] Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. §230.3761(XI)(B)

[7] Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. §230.3761 (XI)(A)

[8] Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. §230.3761 (III)(A)

[9] Beshear, Supra note 1