Indy Downs Gets OK for Parlor Near Ellis Park

by James Platz

A revamped Indiana Horse Racing Commission granted approval July 2 for the proposed Indianapolis Downs to build and operate an off-track betting parlor in Evansville, not far from Ellis Park in Kentucky.

The proposed facility, the first OTB parlor to service the southern part of the state, would occupy 20,000 square feet in a former grocery store located in Village Commons on the city's east side. It is expected to cost $1.2 million to renovate the space, and according to Indianapolis Downs officials, could be completed in 60 to 90 days. The parlor will serve 400 patrons and will create 70 full and part-time positions.

By statute, the Evansville OTB parlor cannot open until Indianapolis Downs, located in Shelbyville, Ind., opens for live racing. Indianapolis Downs is scheduled to kick off its inaugural Standardbred meet Dec. 6.

"This is not only appropriate, it is an ideal location for an OTB in Southern Indiana," Indianapolis Downs attorney Doug Brown said of the location near Lloyd Expressway and Highway 41. "We think this is a great market."

Officials estimate that the Evansville OTB facility will generate $640,675 in tax revenues each year, and will have a projected economic impact of $2.5 million. It will be located 176 miles from Hoosier Park's Indianapolis Trackside facility.

While the racing commission has given its approval to build, there is question of whether Indianapolis Downs will be able to secure simulcast signals from Kentucky tracks Ellis Park and Churchill Downs. Ellis Park and Hoosier Park are both part of the Churchill Downs Simulcast Network, which also offers signals for Arlington Park and Hollywood Park.

Ellis Park, located on the Evansville border, is open year-round for simulcasting.

"It is infinitely obvious that a dollar bet on a Turfway horse at Turfway Park provides more revenue to Kentucky horsemen than a dollar bet in Indiana," Hoosier Park attorney Bill Diener said.

During testimony for a pari-mutuel license last year, Indianapolis Downs representatives said they could thrive and maintain profitability without Kentucky signals. Newly-appointed commission chairman Richard Darko expects difficulties in simulcast negotiations, but believes the hurdles can be overcome.

"I think it will eventually be worked out, and I think it will be worked out in time for the opening of the simulcast facility along with the track in December," Darko said.