Kentucky will have to wait some more before it could witness its new Standardbred horse racecourse constructed, as it was confirmed this Tuesday. Following as many as 5 hours of contemplating and debating the question, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission decided to postpone making the ultimate decision regarding future racing and casino operation near the state border with Tennessee.
This Tuesday was an important date for the developers eyeing a potential license for Standardbred Horse racing track. The first of three entities that expressed their interest in obtaining a license was Churchill Downs teaming up with Thoroughbred auction company Keeneland Association and filing as WKY Development.
Kentucky Downs was the second one, joined by Caesars Entertainment. Bluegrass Downs Standardbred race course is overseen by the latter already heating up the region of Paducah with its various offerings.
Additional 30 Days of Consideration Needed
All three entities are considering the added bonus to this deal, as the licensing will bring them the permission to oversee historic horse racing, enjoying quite the attention in the past years. Nashville is considered the main target for this offering, as the Tennessee capital and its extensive player pool are expected to find the proximity of the horse racetrack convenient. Following the decision made on 30th October, an additional 30 days will be needed for the ultimate decision to be taken.
Those who voted for the postponing of license awarding were seven individuals against five opposers of the decision. Prior to the vote, the three applicants made known their plans for developing under the coveted licensing. The joint venture WKY Development announced it is going to pour some $150 million into its project. According to the developers, it will include a hotel tower and race course, in addition to entertainment and equestrian facilities.
The meeting saw a debate, as Churchill Downs’ President Kevin Flanery said the future location is willing to provide simulcast betting once it launches operation. This was strongly opposed by Kentucky Downs’ President Corey Johnsen, as his horse racecourse already offers it, thus directly affecting its operation. One of the potential solutions of this controversy could be the proposed betting parlor utilizing advance deposits.
Projections for the Sector
Kentucky Downs introduced its plans indicating it is willing to invest $45 million into this new project featuring 300 terminals. The main argument in support of this rather humble investment is that it should not affect the existing operation of Kentucky Downs in Franklin. The estimated handle of its operation reaches $232 million annually, placing a gap between itself and WKY Development’s projected handle of $800 million per year.
Furthermore, Kentucky Downs manages a gambling venue, meaning that it will have to pour additional cash into updating its offerings if any of the remaining applicants claim the license for operation. Cannibalization is also eyed as a potential outcome of for the Oak Grove region. The third applicant Caesars Entertainment presented its plans for a $140-million race course providing historic horse racing. A hotel venue will not be included in the project.
According to the estimations made in advance, handle generated by historic race operation could reach $1.7 billion. All applicants plan on providing players with their premium HHR devices and Standardbred racing ranging from 15 to 30 days per year. The ultimate decision should be taken in the next 30 days, but more likely in the first weeks of November. Ever since the closure of Thunder Ridge race course in Prestonsburg, the field has been experiencing a hunger for race dates.
This exit left the field with a vacant license for operation which could be obtained by one of the three entities willing to diversify offerings in the area. The beginning of this month saw the start of a conversation as application process launched and the sector appeared willing to welcome new players as soon as possible. More extensive inspection and evaluation of applicants is set to take place in the next few weeks.