Churchill Downs increases purses again

Churchill Downs announced Thursday its second purse increase in two weeks.

The track will raise purses by 15 percent, an average increase of $5,126 a race, for the final three weeks of the spring meet. This follows a 10 percent increase June 3 that was fueled by strong Kentucky Derby Week betting.

Track president Kevin Flanery attributed the most recent jump to more strong betting.

"Horse racing fans have responded positively to our racing product this season, and wagering levels over the last two weeks in particular greatly exceeded our projections," he said in the announcement.

Total overnight purses for the meet are projected to be $13.3 million, up $1.2 million from original forecasts.

But Flanery warned that the surge in betting and the increase in purses are temporary.

"We've been fortunate this season, but as we've said before, these positive purse adjustments aren't long-term solutions to the problems we face in Kentucky," Flanery said. "The commonwealth's signature horse racing industry still isn't on a level playing field with states whose racetracks have an immense competitive advantage by having their purses fueled by slot machine and casino revenues, and our purses remain well shy of their highest levels of recent years."

The purse increases come as Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced a deal Wednesday that will expand gambling at three Thoroughbred and four harness racetracks.

The casino agreement will let the seven tracks put in video lottery terminals to compete with four planned casinos. Tracks will have to pay $50 million for a 10-year license and at least $150 million for facilities. The tracks could keep 66.5 percent of the revenue but would have to share that on purses, breed development and other programs.

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