Kentucky Derby

Gambling coming to the Kentucky Horse Park for Oaks, Derby

Coming to a location near you: drive-through betting on the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby.

Keeneland plans to open drive-through betting kiosks at the Kentucky Horse Park on Ironworks Pike and at its Thoroughbred Training Center on Paris Pike to offer pari-mutuel betting on Oaks and Derby days, May 4-5.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Monday approved without objection Keeneland's plan, contingent on receiving a lease from the state, which owns the Horse Park.

Vince Gabbert, Keeneland vice president and chief operating officer, said the track will lease an area at the front of the park's parking lot for the two days. The park will get a portion of the wagering profits, he said.

In a letter laying out the request, Gabbert said the move would help Keeneland satisfy bettors who don't want to wait in long lines and could alleviate some traffic congestion around the track.

Gabbert said that Keeneland already has received approval from the Horse Park, via e-mail, for the lease and is waiting on the Finance Cabinet to sign off on it.

He couldn't say how much money the park ultimately might receive. "After we pay the commission to Churchill Downs, we will split net profits after we cover our overhead," he said.

Racing commissioner Ned Bonnie pointed out the Horse Park needs funds to cover a $3.5 million budget shortfall.

"We're not going to cover all that debt," Gabbert said. "The hope is we generate traffic for the Horse Park and that it will grow in years to come and create a destination for people."

In other business, the racing commission also approved a partial change in ownership of Turfway Park in Florence, over Bonnie's objection that the buyer has not spelled out a commitment to Kentucky racing.

Keeneland is selling 80 percent of its share in the track to Rock Ohio Ventures, which is a subsidiary of Dan Gilbert's empire, which includes the Cleveland Cavaliers, Quicken Loans and, soon, two Ohio casinos.

Rock Ohio Ventures then will contribute a 40 percent share of the track to Rock Ohio Caesars, which also will put in its current 50 percent share of Turfway, giving the new entity, ROC, 90 percent of the track.

Gilbert and Caesars already are partners in the building of a Cincinnati casino. Keeneland will keep a 10 percent share in the track.

Purchase price, according to Rock Venture's application, is $6.2 million.

Bonnie and several other commissioner's asked Rock's principals to clarify their plans for the track.

"I want written assurances from you that you're not going to look at a warehousing of Kentucky racing until the casino issues in Kentucky are resolved and you walk away," Bonnie said. "I need more assurances from this group on whether going to help us maintain the level of racing in Kentucky. ... If we lose Turfway, we lose the circuit."

Turfway Park president Bob Elliston said that the purchase by Rock, which has myriad sports and entertainment interests, will bring the strength of great marketing and promoting to the venture.

The Kentucky racing commission also gave approval to Kentucky Downs in Franklin to add another 75 instant racing machines, in an larger gambling area, with four new types of bets. The new terminals should be available by April 24.

From September through March, $67.8 million was wagered on instant racing, which is form of electronic betting on previously run horse races. The games simulate betting on "slots."

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