CDI: Next Gaming Push in KY Likely for 2016

Company spent $600,000 in first quarter of 2014 on failed bid for casino gambling.

Churchill Downs Inc., which spent $600,000 in the first quarter of this year on another failed bid for casino gambling in Kentucky, believes the next opportunity to makes its case will come during the 2016 Kentucky General Assembly session.

The issue was discussed during an April 24 first-quarter earnings conference call.

CDI chairman and chief executive officer Bob Evans noted the 2015 legislative session will be "short" at only 30 days, so a constitutional amendment on expanded gambling most like would have to wait another year.

"It's probably unlikely anything will happen (in 2015) because it's a short year," Evans said. "Realistically, our next best shot is probably 2016."

Racing interests first began pursuing alternative gaming in the early 1990s in Kentucky.

CDI officials also briefly discussed the status of Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, which is under fire by Louisiana lawmakers, regulators, and horsemen who claim the facility isn't being properly maintained.

The Louisiana State Racing Commission has scheduled a meeting for May 1 to discuss CDI's 10-year license to operate the track, which has slot machines. The state House of Representatives already passed a bill that would require CDI to invest 10% of its slots revenue on improvements at Fair Grounds and its ring of off-track betting parlors that have video poker machines.

"There has been a fairly active publicity campaign requesting we invest more on the racing side at Fair Grounds," CDI president and chief operating officer Bill Carstanjen said. "In our view we are licensed for 10 years, but the racing commission still holds a yearly hearing. If it were to withdraw our license, we would dispute that vigorously."

He said CDI will make the case it needs to operate Fair Grounds "in an economically feasible way."

CDI spent $1.1 million on Internet gambling-related expenses in the first quarter of 2014. Evans said the company has a "long-term view" on Internet gambling and will continue to make investments in anticipation of action on either the state or federal levels.