Kentucky Racetracks Struggle to Grow Business

A member of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is challenging racetracks to be more innovative in order to compete with surrounding states for business. As race tracks have proposed 2012 schedules, some tracks are cutting the number of racing days.

“We’ve got to do something to lure people back to the tracks,” said Commissioner Tom Ludt.

Thunder Ridge in Prestonsburg has requested cutting race days off the schedule because it can’t afford to stay open. Tracks should try more innovative options like nighttime racing, said Ludt. Track officials should stir waves and challenge operations, he said.

Some tracks like Churchill Downs have adjusted the way business is done. Churchill Downs’ Darren Rogers said night racing is one of many changes that have increased attendance.

“The challenge for Churchill Downs is to put together a product that is attractive to the horse player, also the casual fan and then the entertainment seeker,” he said.

Rogers said since the track invested $4 million in lights, night racing has tripled attendance and doubled wagering when compared to day racing. Churchill Downs is changing its night racing from Friday to Saturday nights beginning next year. Rogers hopes this will bring traffic to the track earlier, he said.

The track is no longer just about racing, said Rogers. Churchill Downs now includes music and other entertainment, and Rogers said now it’ll sell the experience.