LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Churchill Downs is gambling that its latest entertainment venture will pay off for horse racing in Kentucky.

Derby City Gaming opens for business Friday morning, and WDRB News was given a first look inside.

The 85,000 square foot facility looks and sounds like a casino. But, instead of traditional slot machines, customers play instant racing machines.

The results are based on horse races that have already been run.

“Obviously, we don't tell you which races, because we don't want you to look it up,” said Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery. “But you can, if you want, handicap or do what I do at the track, and just take quick pick, and get the spin and enjoy the machine.”

 

Derby City Gaming has installed 900 instant racing machines, with several themes.

“Even though the skin of the machine may look like a Pac Man or Flying Mustang, it's historical races that you're betting on,” said Flanery.

This is the fourth instant racing facility in the state.

Though a lawsuit challenging the legality of instant racing is still pending, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has approved it as a form of parimutuel wagering.

“In a casino setting, you're betting against the house. Here, you're betting against one another just like you're doing at the race track,” explained Flanery.

Churchill Downs has invested $65 million to transform part of the Louisville Downs training facility into Derby City Gaming. The training track has been preserved.

Along with the machines, there's a restaurant, bar and space for live entertainment.

“I think it's something the community will be surprised by, and excited,” said Flanery. “A new way to entertain themselves. “

Beyond the casino atmosphere, the venue is all about horse racing. Even the 2019 Kentucky Derby Trophy is on display at the entrance, surrounded by images of last year’s Run for the Roses.

Flanery expects Derby City to eventually generate $15 to 20 million a year. He said those dollars will help fuel the growth of traditional horse racing.

“We're in competition with race tracks all over the country for horses and horsemen,” said Flanery. “Competition is fueled by the purse money that they run for. We need to bring our purse money up across the state, and that's why this facility is important.”

Churchill Downs is already counting on the success of Derby City Gaming.

If the Horse Racing Commission approves, Churchill Downs plans to team with Keeneland to build a gaming and harness racing facility in Oak Grove, Kentucky. While it is being built, Derby City Gaming will host harness racing in 2019.

Derby City Gaming opens to the public at 10:00 am on Friday.

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