In a move that could lead to similar ventures in the future, Keeneland Association has been approved to set up a drive-through betting window at the Kentucky Horse Park for this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
In addition to the Horse Park betting booth, which will be located in a parking lot being leased by Keeneland for two days, the racetrack will also have drive-through Derby and Oaks betting at the Thoroughbred Training Center, a training facility in Lexington that it owns.
At its April 16 meeting, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approved an amended track license application that includes both locations. Approval of the amended application was necessary for Keeneland to conduct the Derby and Oaks wagering at the two locations in compliance with statutes that states pari-mutuel wagering can only be conducted on “licensed premises” of a license holder.
Keeneland vice president and chief operating officer Vince Gabbert said the association would cover all costs associated with the drive-through wagering facility at the Horse Park and would split all of its wagering revenues with the facility.
In its request to the KHRC, Keeneland said allowing wagering to be conducted at the Horse Park and training center would be a convenience for its patrons, who pack the track each year on Oaks and Derby days.
“Each year on those days, Keeneland Association struggles to offer its patrons the opportunity to wager on Churchill Downs’ races in a manner that does not frustrate the patrons by causing them to wait in extensive lines to place a wager and inconvenience the community as a result of traffic complications from the long lines,” the letter stated.
Gabbert told the KHRC that Keeneland also hoped that offering wagering at the Horse Park it could introduce people to the facility who had never visited the state-run park.
KHRC chairman Bob Beck said similar wagering opportunities would be considered by the commission if racing licenses proposed them in the future.
In other business at the April 16 meeting, which was highlighted by the commission turning down a recommendation to phase out the use of furosemide for race days in Kentucky, the KHRC also approved the sale of most of Keeneland’s interest in Turfway Park to Rock Ohio Ventures.
Rock Ohio Ventures is in the process of constructing a casino in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, across the state border from Turfway in Northern Kentucky, in partnership with the Caesars Entertainment Corp., which owns 50% of Turfway Park. With its acquisition, Rock Ohio Ventures is acquiring 80% of the 50% portion of the track owned by Keeneland. That will leave Keeneland with a total 10% investment in Turfway Park.
Commissioner Ned Bonnie questioned Rock Ohio Ventures commitment to live racing at Turfway Park, noting that the company is primarily in the casino business. The company is controlled by Dan Gilbert, whose other business ventures include the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and Quicken Loans.
Turfway president Bob Elliston explained that there are regulations which spell out conditions under which live racing can be reduced, including permission being obtained from horsemen’s groups, and that those would be followed under the new ownership scheme.
If anything, Elliston said, Rock Ohio Ventures would be able infuse its marketing and promotion expertise into the Turfway operation.
Bonnie wanted the approval delayed until he and other commissioners could meet with the new owners, but the commission Ok’d the deal, with the understanding that Rock Ohio Ventures representatives would discuss the concerns with the regulators.
The KHRC also approved a request from Kentucky Downs in Franklin, Ky., to add another 75 Instant Racing machines to its facility. Once the new machines are operational, the total electronic gaming machines at the track will be 350.
In the monthly report from the state veterinarian’s office, it was reported that one racing fatality had occurred during the 24 days of the Turfway Park meet for the Feb. 10-April 1 period.