During an event with strong political overtones, Churchill Downs Inc. introduced its renovated TwinSpires.com offices in Lexington Feb. 15 with a message: We’ll invest in Kentucky as long as it remains the “horse capital of the world.”
The nicely appointed renovated offices, two floors in a building on Corporate Drive, employ almost 130 people. CDI several years ago purchased Brisnet, which occupied the space before the purchase by CDI.
The reception was attended by prominent Democrats including Gov. Steve Beshear; his running mate, former Louisville mayor Jerry Abramson; Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo; and Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington, among others. Beshear is seeking a second term as governor in November.
The Lexington office of TwinSpires.com, an advance deposit wagering system, recently hired 25 employees and has plenty of room for more. CDI president and chief executive officer Bob Evans said he expects TwinSpires.com, launched in 2007, this year will become the largest ADW in the nation.
“We created TwinSpires.com because we thought it would be a great way to increase industry (pari-mutuel) handle,” Evans said.
As for expanding offices in Lexington, Evans said: “This is where we get the people who understand horse racing. This is the horse capital of the world, and if we lose that, we’d probably look somewhere else to do business.”
Beshear touched on that issue as well, saying there have been “challenges” the last three years of his term in maintaining the status of the Kentucky horse industry. He said 25 jobs at TwinSpires.com may not sound like a lot, but they represent 25 Kentucky families.
Beshear also said CDI’s $2 million investment in Lexington is a “major step forward for the industry.”
“I can guarantee you this: We’re going to do everything we can to preserve this $4 billion industry that provides 100,000 jobs,” Beshear said. “If we were in danger of losing a Toyota, which employs about 7,000, we’d be going over backward to make sure it stays (in Kentucky). We have to do the same thing for the horse industry.”
When asked about the chances the General Assembly will pass substantive legislation geared toward the horse industry this year, Westrom said: “I can’t predict that there will be (movement), unfortunately. I think the governor said it all right here. It hurts my soul to think our signature industry is taking a back seat.
“Sometimes it takes a lot of courage (to get things done), but courage is a bit sparse.”
The horse industry since 1994 has lobbied for racetrack gaming with little success.
TwinSpires.com, which has about 200,000 customers, processed $31 million in wagers on races from Kentucky tracks through Sept. 30, 2010, according to CDI. It paid $2.3 million in host fees to Kentucky tracks and $25.5 million to all tracks on which it offers wagering.