Instant Racing Coming to Turfway Park

by Pat Moynahan on March 8, 2016

Turfway-1FLORENCE – Chip Bach doesn’t expect an immediate turnaround in Turfway Park’s fortunes, but he is betting on instant racing to raise the stakes.

Bach, the general manager at the Florence track, said thoroughbred racing facilities in Kentucky have struggled financially because of competition from casino gambling and slot machines at tracks in neighboring states. An electronic horse racing game called “instant racing” or “historical racing” could help even the odds.

“The day they switched on the casinos, they took 50 percent of our business,” Bach said. “We have been trying to catch up ever since. It’s impossible to compete with the extra revenue they get from casinos.”

Turfway-2Bach sketched prospects for improvements at Turfway Park in remarks at the Florence Rotary Club luncheon on Monday, February 29. He noted that Turfway’s signature event, the Spiral Stakes on April 2, is generating a lot of excitement, and Turfway’s latest owners are considering a $10 million investment in the facility.

Rock Gaming LLC now owns controlling interest in Turfway Park as well as 100 percent of Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati, Horseshoe Casino Cleveland and Thistledown Racino near Cleveland. Last month the Detroit-based corporation announced plans to change its brand to Jack Entertainment.

Bach said the owners plan to make a big move in the area “and feel like we’re important to them.” Instant racing is one of the “big move” strategies Rock Gaming is exploring.

“We are hoping it can return us to relevance,” Bach said. Horse racing was once king in Kentucky, but racinos can offer larger purses because of the extra revenue slot machines generate, he added.

Instant racing is an electronic game in which bettors wager on races from the past. The machine provides handicapping information but does not disclose the name of the track, the location or the names of the horses and jockeys. The winners are determined by the results of the races, like pari-mutuel wagering. The track gets a cut of the revenue, but bettors actually are competing against each other, Bach said.

Kentucky Downs near Bowling Green and Ellis Park outside Henderson have been doing well with instant racing, according to Bach. Instant racing was approved by the Kentucky Racing Commission in 2010 but has been challenged by opponents who claim the machines are actually slot machines, which are illegal in Kentucky. That issue currently is making its way through the court system.