Kentucky bids for slots

Nov 27, 2001 6:27 AM

Slots at racetracks, once considered a travesty by the racing purists, appear to be the future of the industry. But the change is not coming easily.

When Mark Simendinger was running Turfway Park in Kentucky, he felt the sting of his “partners” when he suggested Kentucky consider expanding gaming by permitting slot machine installation at the tracks.

“It’s hard when your partners don’t agree with you, and the horsemen were our partners,” he said recently. Now Simendinger runs an auto racing track but he still worries about the horse industry.

Some of the tracks, he said, are public companies and they have a responsibility to their shareholders. He cited Churchill Downs Inc. (CHDN). “Refusing slots is like refusing millions of dollars.” Churchill Downs has dropped purses for three consecutive years because of declining revenue. The company would like to see slots approved in Kentucky.

Officials in Kentucky are formulating the 2002 agenda that may include slots. They said they will support any plan that has unanimity.

Now that New York State has approved legislation that will have their racetracks share their facilities with slot machines, Kentucky horsemen may see the light.