Tired of waiting for real slots, Churchill Downs settles for Instant Racing machines


churchill-downs-instant-racing-kentuckyHorseracing, casino and social gaming operator Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) has been given the green light to launch pseudo-slot ‘instant racing’ machines in Kentucky.

On Tuesday, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission granted initial approval to a plan that will see CDI add up to 600 ‘instant racing’ gaming machines to a new purpose-built venue at its Trackside training location in Louisville, not far from the Churchill Downs track that hosts the annual Kentucky Derby race.

CDI says it plans to commence construction of the new $50m to $60m venue later this summer and hopefully welcome its first instant racing customers in summer 2018. CDI’s Kevin Flannery said the company opted not to install the machines at its flagship Louisville racetrack due to space limitations.

Instant racing, sometimes referred to as historical racing, involves machines that play simulated videos of real-life races from days gone by with all identifying information stripped out before players place their wagers. The machines have been controversial wherever they’ve been introduced due to their pure-chance-outcome resemblance to standard slot machines, which many states have yet to approve.

Kentucky legislators approved instant racing way back in 2010 but CDI held off adding the machines to their gaming palette, reportedly due to their preference for adding actual slots. But with Kentucky legislators showing no inclination to further expand the state’s gaming options, CDI apparently had a change of heart.

Other Kentucky racetracks, including Kentucky Downs, The Red Mile and Ellis Park, have already launched instant racing at their venues. The Herald-Leader reported that instant racing had handled wagers totaling nearly $839m in the state’s current fiscal year through May, of which $53m was held by track operators.

The addition of instant racing will further lessen CDI’s reliance on its land-based race betting revenue, which contributed $26.1m to the company’s Q1 earnings report, less than online betting ($52.3m), casinos ($35.3m) and social gaming ($112m).