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Expanded gaming: Kentucky horsemen doing it wrong

Presidents of six horse-racing tracks in Kentucky were in Louisville recently to discuss the future of horse racing and, more importantly, how to rescue one of the Bluegrass State’s most vital industries.
Declines in wagering and decreased purses have led to some tracks, including world-famous Churchill Downs, canceling race days due to fewer horses running. With fewer horses, smaller odds and smaller payoffs are usually the result, which then leads to less wagering. Less wagering means smaller purses, and the cycle continues until race days have to be canceled.
Ron Geary of Ellis Park says his track will not be able to afford to open in 2010 unless expanded gaming is legalized in Kentucky. Geary has even had ostrich races to try and boost attendance at Ellis.
It wasn’t more than a decade ago that Kentucky tracks were against other forms of gambling, saying it would take money from horse racing. Turns out it wasn’t gaming in Kentucky, but gaming at tracks outside of Kentucky, including Indiana, that have been the problem.
With expanded gaming at tracks elsewhere, such as Hoosier Park in Anderson and Indiana Downs in Shelbyville, ‘racinos’ have been able to supplement their purses and attract bigger meets and, in theory, better competition.
Now, horsemen in Kentucky are pushing hard for slots at Kentucky tracks, saying the revenue generated will undoubtedly save the industry.
Shhh. Don’t tell anyone, but Kentucky’s horsemen are doing it wrong.
‘We have to save the industry or we’ll close the track,’ resonates only to those who care about horse racing, and, judging by declining attendance at tracks in Kentucky and nationwide, that number is dwindling each year.
In order to get slots, proponents need to convince non-racing areas of Kentucky that expanded gaming will benefit them.
Anyone around here remember casino boat promises in the mid-’90s? Lower taxes, more jobs, a new county jail, more jobs, reduced county school debt, more jobs, paved roads, and, did we forget to mention, more jobs? Those are the kinds of incentives that give a project steam.
If horsemen can somehow figure non-horsemen into the equation, one-armed bandits will undoubtedly join big hats and fat cigars under the twin spires.
If not, there’s always ostrich racing.