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Turfway Park plans gambling parlor; Keeneland applies for Corbin quarter horse license

In this Sept. 24, 2015, photo, JoAnne Santelli, left, and Beverly Aus played gaming machines at the Downtown Grand hotel and casino in Las Vegas. As gamblers move away from traditional slot machines, game-makers and casinos are looking at new ways to keep people playing.
In this Sept. 24, 2015, photo, JoAnne Santelli, left, and Beverly Aus played gaming machines at the Downtown Grand hotel and casino in Las Vegas. As gamblers move away from traditional slot machines, game-makers and casinos are looking at new ways to keep people playing. Associated Press

Before Gov. Steve Beshear leaves office and Gov.-elect Matt Bevin can reconstitute the racing commission, the regulatory body will take up some key business on Tuesday: a request for a gambling parlor at Turfway Park in Florence and Keeneland’s plan to open a quarter horse track and gambling parlor in Corbin.

Turfway Park filed a request with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to offer historical wagering on horse races, as has previously been approved for Kentucky Downs in Franklin, Ellis Park in Henderson, and Keeneland and the Red Mile in Lexington.

Turfway plans to operate up to 250 gambling machines offering games from RaceTech or Encore Gaming, according to the application. Rock Gaming, which operates casinos in Ohio, will manage the parlor, which will be in 10,000 square feet on the ground floor of the existing grandstand. The gambling parlor will be in front of a simulcasting room, with a bar between them.

No dollar figure for the investment was listed in the application.

Also, Keeneland requested a racing license for a track to be called Cumberland Run in Corbin in Knox County. Beginning in 2017, the track will host 12 dates of quarter horse racing annually in June and July, plus simulcast wagering and historical wagering, known as instant racing, according to the application.

The original proposed name for the track was Thunder Gap but Keeneland vice president Vince Gabbert said that the track is no longer pursuing the license currently issued to Thunder Ridge, a harness track in Prestonsburg. Keeneland and Thunder Ridge had been negotiating a purchase of assets for more than a year.

“We’ve submitted for the ninth license,” Gabbert said. He would not comment on why the strategy has changed.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, on Nov. 20 pre-filed legislation for the session of the General Assembly that starts in January that would prohibit a track from having more than one license. According to the bill, a currently issued license could be transferred for the purpose of relocating the license as long as the applicant “acquires all assets and liabilities of the other current licensee.” The Prestonsburg track’s liabilities potentially could include $2 million in debt Floyd County used to build the facility.

Keeneland plans to build a $30 million track and operate about 350 historical wagering terminals year-round in Corbin. The application includes a layout of the track on 50 acres along the Corbin bypass between Allison Boulevard and Buchanan Boulevard. The facility will include a 750-seat grandstand, horse barns, a sales pavilion, 30,000-square-foot entertainment center, restaurants, bars, and eventually a 120-room hotel, along with more commercial, dining and entertainment options. The cost of both phases is expected to be about $59 million.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, supports the plans for Corbin, which is in his district. Keeneland told him a few months ago their intention to drop the Prestonsburg acquisition, he said.

“They told me their rationale and I understood it. ... It’s just less expensive to go this route,” Stivers said. Floyd County has filed a motion in district court to block the commission from issuing the ninth license, a move he said he thinks is in concert with Stumbo’s bill.

“As long as the speaker’s home county was satisfied, everything was fine; there was no question with Keeneland obtaining that license,” Stivers said.

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