As Kentucky’s equine industry awaits word on whether Gov. Steve Beshear will call a special legislative session that could have racetrack gaming on the agenda, representatives of the state’s racetracks and horsemen’s groups will hold a press conference May 20 to discuss the state of the horse business.
Meanwhile, Ohio horseracing interests plan a statehouse rally May 19 to lobby for legislative relief.
The Kentucky press conference is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. EDT in the paddock at Churchill Downs, which is dark for live racing that day because of a shortage of horses. Churchill received Kentucky Horse Racing Commission permission to drop Wednesday programs during its spring meet.
The officials, in a May 18 release, said Kentucky’s equine industry “is in need of legislative action.” They supported legislation introduced earlier this year to authorize video lottery terminals at racetracks in the state.
Among those scheduled to attend are Bob Evans, president and chief executive officer of Churchill Downs Inc.; Nick Nicholson, president and CEO of Keeneland; Bob Elliston, president and CEO of Turfway Park; Ron Geary, owner and president of Ellis Park; Corey Johnsen, president of Kentucky Downs; Joe Costa, president and CEO of The Red Mile; Rick Hiles, president of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association; and David Richardson, president of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders. They are expected to “address current threats to—and possible solutions for—the industry,” the release said.
After its first week of racing, which included the Kentucky Oaks and Derby programs, Churchill struggled to fill fields. Many Kentucky-based horses have been competing at Indiana Downs in Indiana, Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Pennsylvania, and Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in West Virginia, all three of which have slot machines or VLTs. In addition, CDI-owned Arlington Park in Illinois opened for live racing May 1.
In Ohio, horseracing industry groups plan to rally in Columbus, the state capital, at 10 a.m. Several racetracks are offering free bus service from their parking lots for those who wish to attend.
Ohio racetracks also are being squeezed by competition from tracks with gaming in neighboring states. Earlier this year, the Ohio State Racing Commission unveiled a plan for racetrack VLTs, and the industry hopes the plan is included in the state budget proposal currently being fashioned by lawmakers.