Handle on instant racing, an electronic form of gambling based on old horse races, continues to climb. In November, wagering jumped to $8.4 million, up $1.65 million, or 24.38 percent. In October, almost $6.8 million was wagered at Kentucky Downs in Franklin.
The figures, reported to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, show that the track's 200 machines averaged almost $2 million a week in bets last month.
Most of that money (about 91 percent) was paid back to gamblers in the form of winnings; the rest, $725,903, was divided between the track and the state, which gets about 17 percent of the takeout in pari-mutuel taxes.
Half of the pari-mutuel tax goes into the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund, which puts the money back into purses for Kentucky-bred racehorses. In November, more than $63,000 was paid into the purse fund. For 2011, about $147,000 has been generated for purses through instant racing tax revenue.
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The racing commission asked during its Wednesday meeting for more data about separate payments into purses promised by the tracks through an agreement with horsemen. Tracks that participate in instant racing have agreed next year to share some revenue. According to Rick Hiles, president of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, Kentucky Downs is expected to contribute an extra $400,000 or so to purses at other tracks that have instant racing. Ellis Park in Henderson plans to begin offering instant racing early next year; no other racetrack have applied for the machines.
Horsemen and tracks hope that by adding another form of gambling they can attract new bettors and bring others back from casinos in other states. In recent years, Ellis Park has closed down in the off-season, but in 2012, the track will resume year-round simulcasting.
Hiles said Wednesday that Kentucky Downs also has seen a surge in simulcast wagering, which will increase the pari-mutuel tax and Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund payments as well.
"So it's working," he said.