Expanded gambling set to debut at Kentucky Downs
FRANKLIN, Ky. (WDRB) -- "Old horse races get a fresh start as instant racing gets ready to post at Kentucky Downs," says Corey Johnsen, Kentucky Downs president. His Franklin track is the first in the Commonwealth to unveil 200 new flashy instant racing machines ahead of Thursday's ribbon cutting.
The machines are divided into six different games, from "Mad Money" to "Gold Rush," but all with the same premise -– players bet on races without knowing anything about the race until after they've wagered. "You see a small clip of the race in the top right corner," explains Bobby Geiger from Oaklawn Racing & Gaming in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
There is even a pie chart to help gamblers handicap the races. Officials are excited about the money instant racing could make as horse racing in Kentucky feels the purse strings tighten.
"Our surrounding states are using money from expanding gaming to enhance their purses and breeders' incentive fund and we really just can't compete with that," said Patrick Neely with the Kentucky Equine Education Project.
He hopes this could lead to casino style gambling, despite the critics. The Family Foundation is appealing a judge's ruling that instant racing is legal. Johnsen says just because the machines look and sound like a slot machine, they're not.
"A slot machine has a random number generator in that box and is totally against the house, whereas the machines here are linked together where the players play against each other," said Johnsen.
The million dollar question is how much revenue it will produce for Kentucky Downs and the state. The hope is millions, especially since Kentucky Downs spent $3 million to install the machines and hire 85 new workers.
But Churchill Downs isn't ready to ride on the instant racing bandwagon. Officials say the legal battle and the uncertainty of instant racing profits has them waiting on the sidelines for now.
"We're kind of along for the ride," said Johnsen. "We will generate a profit. But once we can get more than 200 terminals, that's when you can see a real profit for Kentucky Downs."
Track officials point to success in Arkansas with instant racing -– saying it saved that state's horse racing industry.
Thursday's ribbon cutting ceremony will take place at Kentucky Downs at 10 o'clock in the morning Central time and then it's open to the public.
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