LOUISVILLE — Churchill Downs plans to start taking a bigger cut from bets wagered on its races, which means gamblers cashing winning tickets will collect less money.
The track will apply the new so-called takeout rate when its spring meet starts on April 26 — a move that could add $8 million to Churchill's revenues and increase purses by a similar amount, according to The Courier-Journal.
The increase will apply to the Kentucky Derby.
Churchill's takeout will be the maximum allowed under state law — between 17.5 percent and 22 percent, depending on the type of wager. That's up from the 16 percent to 19 percent Churchill had been taking from the betting pool.
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The Louisville track is contractually required to direct roughly half the takeout to purses after taxes.
Churchill Downs spokesman John Asher said without the change, spring purses would have been cut, including the likely cancellation of some stakes races.
"If Churchill Downs is to present a competitive racing product, purses must be strong enough to keep current stables in the state and attract new stables and horses to the Kentucky racing circuit," Asher told the Louisville newspaper.
Churchill's takeouts will remain competitive nationally. But Jeff Platt, president of the Horseplayers Association of North America, predicted less money will be bet overall, offsetting the revenue gains.
"I'm just stunned they would do this," Platt said. "It flies in the face of all the evidence. They're going about it exactly wrong."
Churchill is counting on a net gain from the higher takeout even if betting declines. The track has already increased its stakes purses for the spring meet by 2.7 percent to $7.68 million for the 24 stakes races.
Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association that includes owners and trainers, said he expects horseplayer groups to be upset but believes the change will be noticed mostly by big bettors.
The change comes after efforts to legalize casino gambling stalled again in the Kentucky General Assembly.