Battle Lines Forming in Indiana, Kentucky

by James Platz

Indianapolis Downs has filed an application for a license to operate a satellite wagering facility in Evansville, Ind. Officials with the proposed racetrack claim the southern Indiana marketplace is underserved by Hoosier Park, currently the state's only pari-mutuel racetrack.

"Evansville is a mature market with experienced players," Indianapolis Downs attorney Doug Brown said. "We think our projections are a reasonable expectation. They are not aggressive at all. The numbers are realistic."

The Evansville market is served by Ellis Park, located in nearby Henderson, Ky. That track is owned by Churchill Downs Inc., which on Wednesday announced it had sold a 15% share in Hoosier Park to Centaur Racing, which already has a stake in the track.

The property for the proposed off-track betting parlor is located within Village Commons on the east side of Evansville. Owned by Regency Properties, the 20,000-square-foot space is leased by Buehler Foods Inc. Indianapolis Downs will sub-lease the property from Buehler Foods.

According to figures provided by Indianapolis Downs, the facility will cost an estimated $1.2 million, will have a seating capacity for 400 patrons, and will create 70 jobs. The Evansville facility is projected to generate $55,000 in average daily handle and $669,135 in income in 2003, its first year of operation.

By 2007, average daily handle is projected to reach $59,534, resulting in an income of $735,006. The projected economic impact is $2.5 million.

Hoosier Park management has found Indianapolis Downs' projected numbers questionable. As the operator of Trackside Fort Wayne, based in the state's second most populous city, Hoosier Park is struggling to generate substantial income after six years at the location.

"We have average daily handle of about $64,000 in Fort Wayne, which produces a net income of about $174,000," Hoosier Park president and general manager Rick Moore said. "They projected that their Evansville OTB will have average daily handle of $55,000 and net income of $669,000. Enough said."

Ellis Park offers year-round simulcasting. According to vice president and general manager Paul Kuerzi, the track will be affected by the satellite facility.

"The proposed site is seven to eight miles from Ellis Park," Kuerzi said. "There is no question it would hurt us. If they average what they have included in their business plan, that would represent about a 30% impact on us."

Indiana Horse Racing Commission executive director Joe Gorajec said the Evansville application will not come up for review until the first quarter of 2002.