Kentucky Downs

Kentucky Downs

Ron Mitchell

Kentucky Downs Says Instant Racing Play Good

The racetrack handled more than $500,000 in the first five days of operation.

Kentucky Downs is reporting receipts of more than a half-million dollars from Instant Racing machines during their first five days of operation.

Kentucky Downs president Corey Johnsen said a total of $594,431 was wagered through the track's 197 machines in the five-day period, an average of $603.48 per day per machine. The track began offering Instant Racing Sept. 1.

Johnsen told the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Sept. 7 that $53,536 was taken out for the track and taxes, including $8,916 for the state.

Instant Racing is under legal review in the state Court of Appeals after the Family Foundation of Kentucky asked for an injunction to halt operation of the games. If the court rules against the games, Kentucky Downs could have to remove the machines.

The track is the only one in the state offering Instant Racing machines, which resemble video lottery terminals but are considered pari-mutuel because the outcome of the games relies on previously run races, and all wagers are pooled.

Johnsen said the track launched the machines with a soft opening to limit any initial problems, and said Kentucky Downs would begin marketing the new game in earnest after live racing begins Sept. 10.

"We wanted to make sure that our systems, our operation, our level of customer service, our facility all worked in a first-class manner, and I'm very pleased to report to you that that is the case," Johnsen told the commission.

Johnsen said attendance has been 500-1,000 a day in the area where the gaming machines are located. Officials from Oaklawn Park in Arkansas have been on hand to help with Kentucky Downs' launch.

Arkansas first launched Instant Racing in 2000.

Johnsen said the opening-week numbers are in line with expectations, and that there is room for considerable growth as customers learn more about the games. Arkansas reports daily track and state revenue in excess of $100 per day per machine.

"We're going to be ready to take this new product and grow with it and generate significant revenue for the horse industry and for the state," Johnsen said.

Johnsen said additional revenue from Instant Racing, which will be offered year-round, will allow the track to apply for two more live race days in 2012 and to stay open additional days for simulcast wagering. The facility near the Tennessee border also offers charitable bingo.

Johnsen said the Nashville, Tenn., market would be its main advertising target. The only gambling option in Tennessee is the state lottery.

"Today, 90% of people who walk through the door for the charitable bingo have Tennessee license plates," he said. "So, ultimately, Nashville will be our largest market."

The track invested $3 million and hired 85 new workers to launch Instant Racing.