Breeders' Cup Signal Withheld From Indiana OTB Parlors

by Tom LaMarra and James Platz

Breeders' Cup officials are working with Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association to ensure wagering on this year's World Championships is available at two Indiana off-track betting parlors near the Kentucky border.

Signals from Kentucky Thoroughbred tracks aren't available at the two parlors--one in Clarksville, just across the Ohio River from Louisville, and the other in Evansville, several miles from Ellis Park. The Kentucky HBPA, which has the power to withhold signals under the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978, plans to continue that policy for the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup at Churchill.

"We would need mutual consent," Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of communications for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders' Cup, said Sept. 27. "The horsemen need to approve where the signal is sent. We're hopeful that working with Churchill Downs and the Kentucky HBPA over the month, we'll be able to reach a resolution that would allow us to simulcast the Breeders' Cup to southern Indiana."

Kentucky HBPA executive director Marty Maline couldn't be immediately reached for comment, but he told the Louisville Courier-Journal the association believes having the Breeders' Cup signal at the Evansville OTB parlor would be especially detrimental to Ellis Park. Churchill as host track has drawn some of the largest crowds in Breeders' Cup history; the Clarksville OTB parlor can accommodate only a few hundred patrons.

According to figures from Indiana Downs, for last year's Breeders' Cup program at Belmont Park, the Clarksville OTB handled $157,424 on Belmont races and $251,186 on all tracks combined day and night. The Evansville OTB handle was $125,450 on the Belmont card and $210,175 in total.

Ken Kirchner, senior vice president of product development for the NTRA and Breeders' Cup, said officials will try to get the Kentucky policy changed for the Breeders' Cup simulcast. He said the Breeders' Cup should be treated as a "clean venue" and not be treated as a regular Kentucky signal.

"This has been on the radar screen for some time now," Kirchner said.

The two Indiana OTB parlors opened a few years after Churchill last held the Breeders' Cup in 2000. Though the parlors can't take Kentucky signals, Indiana Downs, which owns them, is able to import the signals at its main plant near Indianapolis, a few hours from Louisville.

"We made the assumption that the Kentucky HBPA would still have some control over the signal, but we weren't sure how much," Indiana Downs general manager Jon Schuster said. "We had contacted Breeders' Cup officials a few weeks ago. We'll just wait until the day it's not in Kentucky. It won't be a busy, thriving day, but it won't be a shutout."

"This is not what the Interstate Horseracing Act was made for, but we'll deal with it and go on," said Schuster, who tried unsuccessfully to ban the Kentucky Thoroughbred signal from Indiana when the Kentucky HBPA withheld it from the Clarksville and Evansville OTB parlors. "It's unfortunate, but they've got to do what they've got to do. The sad part is that the Indiana horsemen take the hit right along with us."

For years, the Turfway Park signal hasn't been available at River Downs and Lebanon Raceway, two tracks in neighboring Ohio, because Kentucky interests believe on-track handle would be impacted. In turn, the River Downs signal isn't available at Turfway.