08/10/2017 4:16PM

Kentucky commission puts brakes on exchange wagers


A request by Kentucky Downs to offer its races this September on a New Jersey betting exchange has been removed from the agenda of an Aug. 15 meeting of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, likely scuttling the plan for this year.

Marc Guilfoil, the commission’s executive director, said that the request had been removed from the agenda by the commission’s chairman, Frank Kling, who is also a member of the commission’s Wagering Integrity Committee. That committee met last week to discuss the request with representatives of Kentucky Downs and the betting exchange, Betfair US, and it ultimately voted to recommend approval, although with several conditions attached.

“We’re still investigating certain questions that haven’t been answered,” Guilfoil said.

Kentucky Downs was the first track in the state to request that its races be allowed to be offered on the New Jersey exchange, which allows its customers to post prices on horses and accept bets from other customers. The wagering committee had recommended that the commission approve the request, though it attached conditions that included a review of the practice to see if exchange wagering fit the state’s legal definition of a parimutuel wager.

Kentucky Downs is scheduled to race for five days this September and offer approximately $1.7 million in purses each day. Its average field-size exceeded 10 horses per race last year, and all its races were on the turf. The track’s races were expected to be well received on the exchange.

Corey Johnsen, the president of Kentucky Downs and a co-owner of the track, said that he was disappointed that the commission would not be able to consider the request this year but also said that he was told that the commission needed more time to do a “thorough due diligence” of the plan.

“We’re still supportive of the exchange-wagering concept and we believe that it’s an innovation that has great potential,” Johnsen said. “When the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is ready for it, we will be ready to offer it."

The Aug. 15 meeting is the only Kentucky Horse Racing Commission meeting scheduled prior to Kentucky Downs holding its first race card on Sept. 2. Barring the scheduling of a special meeting, that means the request will not be approved for this year.

Kling had voted to recommend that the request be approved, in large part because the short length of the Kentucky Downs meet would allow the commission to determine whether concerns over the practice could be ironed out, he said at the time. However, Kling had readily attached the conditions to the approval and expressed concerns about the auditing trail for bets made on the exchange.

Two horseplayers on the committee had also asked Betfair to shut off prerace betting on Kentucky Downs races at the time the first horse loaded into the gate. Betfair representatives agreed to comply with the request.