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Instant racing bets coming in as expected

Bobby Geiger, director of gaming and wagering at Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Ark., which has had instant racing since 2000, showed how the machines work during a media preview at Kentucky Downs last month.
Bobby Geiger, director of gaming and wagering at Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Ark., which has had instant racing since 2000, showed how the machines work during a media preview at Kentucky Downs last month.

Initial returns from Kentucky Downs' new instant racing machines are in line with early expectations, track president Corey Johnsen told the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Wednesday.

A total of $594,431.65 was wagered on the 197 machines through the first five days of operation. Of that amount, $533,418.59 was returned to bettors. The total commission during that time was $53,536.35, with the net track commission coming in at $44,619.88.

Considering Kentucky Downs has done little advertising for instant racing, which allows players to bet on races that already have been run, Johnsen expects to see more growth in the figures during the next month, especially when the track's live racing meeting opens Saturday.

"Basically, these numbers are exactly the numbers expected," Johnsen said. "When I look at my horse racing experience, you start out with a very low per-capita wager, and as the patrons get educated on the new wagers, then that grows very quickly. The other thing that is a little different is we've done virtually no advertising.

"I would tell you we're very enthused by the early results. Operationally we will be ready for this Saturday. We're ready to take this new product and grow new revenue for the horse industry and the state."

The first set of numbers from the historical racing machines comes as their legality is being challenged again by The Family Foundation. The conservative advocacy group has asked for an injunction to bar Kentucky Downs from operating the machines as part of an appeal to a ruling in December that said the games were legal in Kentucky.

Ellis Park is among the tracks considering adding instant racing, but track owner Ron Geary said Wednesday he wanted to "see what happens over in Lexington" with regards to the injunction before applying for a license.

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