Keeneland is poised to sell all or part of its 50% interest in Turfway Park to Caesars Entertainment and perhaps a partner of the gaming company, sources said.
Rumors of a sale surfaced earlier this year. Officials at the time wouldn’t comment directly on the possible sale of an interest of Turfway, which is located in northern Kentucky not far from Ohio.
Sources told The Blood-Horse the week of Oct. 16 a deal is in the works and expected to be finalized soon. The question of Turfway’s ownership came up during a meeting of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Racing Dates Committee earlier this month.
The KHRC must approve any changes in racetrack ownership. The regulatory agency next meets Oct. 24, but the issue isn't listed on the meeting agenda.
Turfway president Bob Elliston said Oct. 20 the racetrack is still owned by Caesars and Keeneland, and that he wouldn’t comment on speculation. Keeneland director of communications Julie Balog said the Lexington track also can't comment on speculation.
Keeneland and Harrah’s Entertainment have been partners in Turfway for more than 10 years. Harrah’s Entertainment changed its name to Caesars Entertainment last year, though some of its casino and racetrack properties still use the Harrah’s name. Harrah’s bought out Caesars for $9 billion in 2005.
Rock Ohio Caesars, a partnership of Caesars and Rock Gaming LLC, is building full-scale casinos in Cincinnati and Cleveland, Ohio. Caesars also owns Thistledown, the Cleveland-area racetrack that has been approved to install video lottery terminals.
In an interview with The Blood-Horse earlier this year, a Harrah’s executive said Turfway, because of its proximity to the company’s Ohio properties, fits in with its plans. Depending on legal and legislative developments in Kentucky, Turfway could end up with Instant Racing machines or VLTs.
In a recent release Rock Ohio Caesars said it plans to ask the Ohio Lottery Commission for approval to install VLTs at Thistledown when the licensing process is established. The company said action could be taken in November or December.
The OSRC met Oct. 20. Racetrack VLT regulations, recently fast-tracked by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, were on the agenda for the meeting.