CDI's Evans: Some Progress in Kentucky

The CEO of Churchill Downs Inc. said progress is being made on racetrack slots.

The president of Churchill Downs Inc. said he believes recent developments with the makeup of the Kentucky General Assembly are positive and could help lead to legalization of video lottery terminals at racetracks in the state.

"We believe we have made some progress toward getting slots approval in Kentucky," CDI president and chief executive officer Robert Evans said Oct. 29 during a conference call to discuss the racetrack operating company’s latest quarterly results.

Legislation to legalize alternative gaming at the tracks failed earlier this year when it died in a Republican-controlled Senate committee. Since then, Democrats have gained one seat in the Senate, and there is another special election Dec. 8 for one seat in the Senate and one in the House, which passed the VLT measure by a slim margin.

"This we believe would improve our chances of getting a bill passed," Evans said of the potential narrowing of Republican power in the Senate when the General Assembly reconvenes in January 2010. "We are concerned about the uncertainty and delay (surrounding) slots in Kentucky, which has been fostered by a small number of politicians. Obviously, we can't do this forever."

Evans said some optimism about the changing political climate in Kentucky was a factor in the decision by the flagship track in Louisville to agree to a new contract with horsemen in which Churchill will supplement purses by $1.5 million over the next three years.

Evans also said Churchill expects revenue to continue to grow from expanded gaming in Florida when slots operations begin at Calder Casino & Race Course in January 2010, and from its Internet wagering businesses. He said online wagering operations such as offer the best opportunity for the wagering industry to attractive younger customers.