LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Churchill Downs Inc. is taking a “patient approach” to the possible legalization of sports wagering in Kentucky, but it expects to add high-paying jobs in the state as it pursues gambling deals elsewhere, the company’s top executive told WDRB News during an interview on Friday.

But William C. Carstanjen, the Louisville-based racetrack and gambling company’s CEO, said he agreed with those who have suggested that Kentucky racetracks be licensed to take sports bets – a position put forth this week by Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown.

“Since we’re not in session right now we are taking a patient approach just to learn what the landscape is here in Kentucky – what the governor thinks of this, what the legislature thinks of this and how their views on this evolve over the next number of months before the legislature is back in session,” Carstanjen said.

Several state lawmakers indicated they will introduce bills to legalize sports gambling after Monday’s landmark Supreme Court ruling, which struck down a 1992 law banning wagers on athletic games in all but a handful of states.

Thayer told a Lexington radio host Wednesday that the General Assembly ought to legalize sports betting when it convenes next January. He said gambling licenses should be limited, and horse racing tracks should be the “place to start.”

Carstanjen said sports gambling “demands a careful licensing and regulatory infrastructure, and we have that in Kentucky through the racing industry. So in our opinion, that infrastructure is already there, the facilities are already there. Gambling is already taking place there, so in that sense it’s not an expansion of gambling. It’s activity that would take place at an existing facility. It’s just a different product that would be offered.”

Churchill Downs Inc., which runs the online Twin Spires betting platform, already has taken steps to offer sports wagering in three states poised to legalize it.

Earlier this week, Churchill announced a deal with London-based SBTech that will allow the company to conduct sports betting and online gambling in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and sports betting in Mississippi. In New Jersey, where Churchill said it had reached an agreement with Golden Nugget Atlantic City, wagering could start by early 2019.

Carstanjen declined to elaborate on other plans, but he said Churchill has taken risks in its approach to “aggressively” building the company.

“We’ll continue to do that,” he said. “We’ll take advantage of opportunities that are presented to us, and I just hope we continue to find good opportunities. We’re always looking. We’re always working on that.”

Last May, Churchill announced it was moving its Twin Spires division from Mountain View, Calif., to the company’s Louisville headquarters on Hurstbourne Parkway in eastern Jefferson County. Carstanjen said he expects the bulk of sports gambling jobs will be based there.

“That’s our command center. That’s where we’re going to launch our other products from,” he said. “We might have to hire some jobs and some personnel in the states that we launch based on the regulations in that state. But this is the epicenter from which we conduct all our online activities.”

With SBTech’s technical expertise in place, Churchill will focus on branding and marketing the wagering products, Carstanjen said.

“Our expectation is that you’ll see some commonality now as we roll out an online brand across different markets,” he said.

Reach reporter Marcus Green at 502-585-0825, mgreen@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2018 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.