08/10/2012 3:16PM

Ellis Park: Saratoga Casino and Raceway to buy minority share in track

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The owners of Saratoga Casino and Raceway have reached an agreement to purchase a stake in Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., according to a document obtained through a request to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

The acquisition appears to be an answer to a call by Ellis’s current owner, Ron Geary, to take on a minority partner so that the track can fund a project to install as many as 250 slot-machine-like devices called Instant Racing machines. Late this June, Geary said he was seeking a partner that could provide $3 million in capital for the project.

With the acquisition, the owners of the Saratoga casino will also gain a foothold in one of the few major racing states that has yet to authorize slot machines or casino gambling at tracks. Ellis Park and other racetracks have lobbied for nearly a decade to obtain legislative authorization to offer slot machines and other casino games, but those efforts have been unsuccessful.

According to the documents, the new owners would share control of the track with Geary, who purchased Ellis Park in 2006 from Churchill Downs. The obtained document does not make clear the size of the stake that is being acquired by the Saratoga casino owners.

Reached on Friday, Geary declined to comment on the agreement, citing the regulatory approval process. Officials of Saratoga Casino and Raceway also declined comment.

The acquisition is expected to be approved by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission at a meeting in September.

Ellis Park was given the authority to operate the Instant Racing machines by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission earlier this year. The legality of the machines has been challenged in court by a conservative group, the Family Foundation, and the suit remains unresolved.