Kentucky Downs won approval Wednesday to add more instant racing machines, which have been getting credit for a surge in wagering and attendance at the racetrack.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission gave its OK for the track at Franklin near the Tennessee border to add 75 more of the machines, which resemble casino-style slot machines.
The track debuted the game in September with 200 machines. Total wagering on instant racing surpassed $40 million through the end of January.
"The results have been better than I expected," Kentucky Downs President Corey Johnsen said afterward. "It creates additional purse money, it creates additional cash flow for the track and then it also creates a substantial amount of state pari-mutuel tax. So it's kind of a win-win-win situation."
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A lawsuit by the Family Foundation conservative group to ban the games is still pending in the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Opponents say the game is nothing more than a slot machine and thus illegal in Kentucky.
The instant racing expansion comes as Kentucky lawmakers consider a proposal to allow more types of gambling at racetracks. Gov. Steve Beshear has proposed amending Kentucky's Constitution to allow up to seven casinos to open in the state, most of them at horse tracks. Similar proposals to expand gambling opportunities in the state have never been able to get through the House and Senate.
In a state that prides itself as the "Horse Capital of the World," the horse tracks say they need the revenue boost from casino-style gambling to compete with tracks in other states that supplement their prize money with other forms of gambling.
Kentucky Downs plans to add the additional instant racing machines in two phases. Twenty additional terminals will start operating right away, Johnsen said. The other 55 will be installed as soon as they arrive.
The track has enough space to add even more, but it would have to expand surveillance systems if it goes beyond 275 machines.
Meanwhile, Ellis Park at Henderson expects to have 252 instant racing machines installed in April, said Robert Jackson, director of operations for the Western Kentucky track. The track is remodeling its clubhouse building where the machines will be placed.
In other action, the horse racing commission gave its blessing for Churchill Downs Inc. to double its minority ownership stake in Kentucky Downs to 10 percent. Churchill Downs, whose properties include its namesake track in Louisville, told the commission last month it had an agreement to buy Bluegrass Hall LLC's 5 percent interest in Kentucky Downs.