Instant racing revenue up 56% in October

Instant racing, in which gamblers bet on old horse races, continues to attract new money.

In October, total handle on historical wagering, as the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission calls it, jumped 56 percent from September, when Kentucky Downs opened the first expanded-gambling room at its track in Franklin.

In September, $4.34 million was wagered on about 200 machines; in October, that rose to $6.77 million, according to figures reported to the racing commission.

The track's revenue has soared, as well. In September, Kentucky Downs' commission on instant racing was about $317,778; in October, the track raked in $488,892. For the first two months of operation, revenue from the machines topped $806,000.

Kentucky Downs President Corey Johnsen could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

"We're encouraged by the growth of instant racing, and it seems to be adding some revenue back to the industry," said Patrick Neely, spokesman for the Kentucky Equine Education Project.

Ellis Park in Henderson is scheduled to begin offering instant-racing wagers sometime early next year, and owner Ron Geary has said he thinks revenue numbers there will be similar to those at Kentucky Downs.

Instant racing has pumped $166,623 into purses and state programs, as well. The primary beneficiary has been the ailing Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund, which has received more than $83,300.

"We're obviously happy about it," said Marc Guilfoil, interim executive director of the racing commission.

In 2011, the KTDF totaled about $4 million, and revenue has been dropping considerably in recent years; at the present rate of $50,000 a month, instant racing from Kentucky Downs alone would contribute $600,000 a year in new money. If Ellis Park can match it, then KTDF supplements could rise 30 percent.

"That would be wonderful," said David Switzer, executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association.

Several of Kentucky's other racetracks, including The Red Mile and Turfway Park, have expressed an interest in adding instant racing but have said they will wait until a legal challenge by The Family Foundation is settled by the Kentucky Court of Appeals, probably next year.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader