KY Gaming Effort Gets Social Media Boost

"Kentucky Wins" Facebook page has generated more than 6,000 e-mails and 1,700 calls.

Executives with Churchill Downs Inc. said Feb. 27 they are still actively pursuing casino gaming legislation during the current session of the Kentucky General Assembly and that their efforts are getting a boost from social media.

Noting that it is getting to be "crunch time" with the legislative session more than half over, CDI president and chief operating officer Bill Carstanjen said during a conference call with stock analysts to discuss CDI's earnings report, "Our team is fully engaged and working hard ..."

According to published reports, representatives of the state's racing industry and a Kentucky Horse Racing Commission member have met with Democratic Rep. Larry Clark, who co-sponsored the legislation with Republican Rep. David Osborne.

"We have some cause to be optimistic," Carstanjen said of the Kentucky legislation and efforts to secure alternative gaming in Illinois. "As always, our issues are wrapped up in other issues that can affect us in ways that are hard to predict."

Bob Evans, CDI chairman and CEO, said a "Kentucky Wins" initiative of which he is co-chair has received more than 71,600 "likes" on Facebook and generated more than 6,000 e-mails and 1,700 phone calls to legislators.

"That's been a very effective tool for us and one that really communicates the key issue in Kentucky and that is that expanded gaming is something that is good for all Kentucky and not just horse racing," Evans said.

Meanwhile, Carstanjen reiterated CDI's reluctant stance on historical racing wagering, called Instant Racing, in which play is conducted on electronic machines resembling slot machines that base payouts on the outcomes of previously run horse races. The Kentucky Supreme Court recently ruled that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission had the regulatory authority to promulgate regulations regarding historical race wagering, but did not rule on the overall legality of the wagering. Instead, the judges ruled that the state was not authorized to collect taxes on the wagers and sent the case back to a lower court for consideration.

"What we've said for our company is we want all the ambiguities resolved by the court before would seriously look at it," Carstanjen said.

Historical racing "may do OK in markets where there aren't slot machines nearby but in a competitive market like Louisville these aren't likely to fare well compared to full slot machine offerings," he said. "It's hard to imagine these machines are of real interest to us."

Historical race wagering has proven to be a financial boon for Kentucky Downs, a small, all-turf track in Franklin, Ky., near the border with Tennessee. The wagering machines are also generating revenues for Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., although not to the extent that have helped Kentucky Downs. Ellis has requested permission to move 50 of its underperforming historical racing machines to Kentucky Downs.