Indiana Downs Opens Slots Facility

Indiana Downs opened Indiana's second racetrack casino June 9.

The temporary “Indiana Live!” slot-machine casino at Indiana Downs opened to the public June 9, ushering in a richer future for the state’s horsemen. But purses won't be going up any time soon.

The facility is the second to come online in a week, joining Hoosier Park Racing & Casino’s 92,000-square-foot slots facility, which opened June 2. The Indiana Live! Casino, a 70,000-square-foot temporary structure, offers 1,900 slot machines. Officials hosted an invitation-only VIP event June 6 and received favorable feedback.

“Everyone on (June 6) said one of three things, ‘Wow,’ ‘You truly brought a little Vegas to Indiana,’ or ‘We are definitely coming back to this place,’ ” said Mark Hemmerle, general manager of Indiana Live! “We heard it continually. The energy was just fantastic. We had two $20,000 jackpot winners. When they were announced, you could hear the cheers going up.”

The temporary facility will serve as the primary venue while work continues on a 233,000-square-foot permanent structure located behind Indiana Downs’ grandstand but facing Interstate 74, which connects Indianapolis with Cincinnati, Ohio. The Cordish Co., a Baltimore, Md.-based developer, is spearheading construction on the permanent facility, projected to be completed in early 2009. The permanent facility will feature a full 2,000 slot machines.

Several events and giveaways are scheduled for grand-opening week. Hemmerle said live acts including Blood, Sweat & Tears and Kenny Loggins are slated, free to the casino’s rewards’ club members. Through June 29, Indiana Live! will conduct daily drawings in which patrons can win $50 gas cards or cash prizes. At month’s end, the casino will give away a Mercedes Benz Smart Car.

“We want to set the tone that this is the place to come in Indiana,” Hemmerle said.

The temporary facility is located on property behind the backstretch of the racetrack. With construction of the permanent facility ongoing, the track has had to shuttle patrons to the racetrack from a satellite parking lot.

With both Indiana Downs and Hoosier Park opening casinos, purses are expected to rise. The question isn’t necessarily if, but when. Butch Cook, who serves as racing secretary at both tracks, said the impact may not be felt until the Hoosier Park Thoroughbred meet this fall.

The minimum purse at Indiana Downs for Thoroughbred racing is $8,000.

“I really don’t foresee a change (at the Indiana Downs meet),” Cook said. “I’ve already got the third (condition) book out, and we’re on our 36th entry day. We have three weeks left in the meet.

“At Hoosier, we’re going to start purses the way they were at the end of last year. That’s not to say they won’t increase. At this point I can't say for sure, but the casino will be up and running for a few months.”

Indiana Downs is currently in the midst of a 53-day meet that continues through July 8. Hoosier Park will offer a 63-day Thoroughbred meet from Aug. 29-Nov. 23.