A group of Kentucky race track presidents and owners gathered in Louisville Wednesday to again make their case for expanded gaming at racetracks.
The group says horses and trainers are leaving the commonwealth to race for higher purses in states with slot machines at the tracks and the only way for Kentucky tracks to compete is with expanded gaming.
Gaming legislation has twice failed in the General Assembly, but Churchill Downs CEO Bob Evans says he’s thinks a measure that allows gaming at race tracks will pass this year.
“I think the arguments stand on their own merits,” he says. “If people can’t see the logic of this, it escapes me as to how they could see it any other way. I think the logic of what we’re proposing here just makes so much sense and it overcomes whatever politics exist, so we’ll see where that goes.”
Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird trainer Chip Wooley agrees. He says the racing is generally better at tracks with more gambling options.
“You couldn’t improve the product here other than an increase in field size and being able to fill your races,” he says. “The greatest horses born are born right here. You could increase the purse sizes and that’ll increase your field sizes and that’ll bring people in instead of sending them away.”
Keeneland President Nick Nicholson says expanded gaming is the only way to save the industry, and the group has no “Plan B” if it isn’t legalized.
“We think that this argument, intellectually, is so compelling – it makes so much sense for Kentucky now – we are becoming increasingly confident that this compelling argument will carry the day,” he says. “That’s our plan.”
Evans says he would favor a special session of the legislature to consider expanded gaming. Governor Beshear has not yet called a special session but says he supports swift action on the issue.