11/23/2015 4:29PM

Turfway applies for slot-like machines


Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., has applied to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for a permit to operate “historical racing machines,” the devices in place at three Kentucky racetracks that closely resemble slot machines, according to an agenda for the Dec. 1 meeting released on Monday.

Turfway, which is majority-owned by the casino company Rock Gaming, is seeking to install 250 of the devices, at least initially, according to Chip Bach, the general manager of the track. Turfway has previously shied from installing the devices because a former co-owner, Caesars Entertainment Corp., had misgivings about legal questions surrounding the machines.

The devices are already in operation at Kentucky Downs in Franklin, Ky., near the border with Tennessee; at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., at the western end of the state; and at the Red Mile in downtown Lexington. The Red Mile operation is a partnership between the harness track and Keeneland Racecourse. Keeneland also owns a small share in Turfway.

The devices have been highly successful at two of the three locations, Kentucky Downs and the Red Mile, while returns have been moderate at Ellis Park. Like Ellis, Turfway is located in a market that already has casino gambling.

“The market here is very competitive, and so we just want to ease into it and re-evaluate it going forward,” said Bach, when asked about the 250-machine allotment.

The devices are most commonly known as instant racing machines, the name given to the devices by their first manufacturer. The machines use the results of previously run horse races to generate random numbers that determine whether a player wins. An anti-gambling group has filed a lawsuit in Kentucky challenging the legality of the machines, and the lawsuit has yet to be resolved.