Indiana Downs officials will ask the state's regulatory agency to consider banning Kentucky Thoroughbred simulcast signals during a meeting July 29. The new facility, located southeast of Indianapolis in Shelby County is taking the step after unsuccessful negotiations with the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association earlier this year. It is a move track management says they have to make.
Indiana Downs filed the petition with the Indiana Horse Racing Commission May 1 after failed attempts to receive Kentucky signals at their Evansville satellite wagering facility, positioned only miles away from Ellis Park. According to general manager Jon Schuster, the Shelbyville track offered a lucrative contract to Kentucky horsemen.
"We bargained in substantially more than good faith with the Kentucky HBPA," Schuster said.
Schuster added that, in their proposal, the Kentucky HBPA could have sent its signal to Evansville, and in turn, generated more in purses than they currently do when sending the signal to Ellis Park, which offers simulcast wagering when it is dark.
A case in point are this spring's Triple Crown races. Indiana Downs was unable to take the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) signal in Evansville; the result was handle of $35,000, a majority of which was generated after the Derby Day card concluded. The facility simulcast the Preakness and Belmont cards, handling $139,000 and $125,000. Schuster speculates Evansville business could have been eight to 10-fold if the Derby Day card was allowed in the off-track facility.
"We feel like it's a step we have to take," Schuster explained. "It's not our desire to knock the signal out of the state, but to convince the horsemen to negotiate."
Indiana Downs has experienced difficulty in both receiving Kentucky signals and sending their signal into the state. As a result, the state's newest pari-mutuel facility has suffered setbacks.
"We're already impacted to a certain degree. They are hitting us in the pocketbook," noted Schuster. "There are a lot of players involved, and the Indiana horsemen are absolutely affected."
During the inaugural Thoroughbred meet earlier this year, Indiana Downs did have success in Kentucky. The track's general manager said they were one of the top signals at Turfway Park until they were taken off the menu when Churchill Downs' spring meet began. The lack of a presence in the Bluegrass State made a noticeable difference.
"We missed the partnership in Kentucky," Schuster said.