Jerry Carroll, the developer who used his magic wand to turn Latonia
Race Course into an attraction, now has casinos on his mind for Northern
plenty of irony in the yarn. Go back a few decades. The Northern Kentucky
racetrack ”” with plenty of big shots in its corner ”” could not compete with
casinos (illegal ones, of course) that dotted the landscape from Covington
south. The track began to fade in the backstretch. A prominent Californian named
Frank Bishop ”” through the urging of Frank Tours ”” bought the
financially troubled racing center and tried to turn it around. When Bishop died
the track was still not living up to expectations.
bottom fisherman, Jerry Jacobs, came along. He stocked all the concession
stands with hot dogs and soft drinks and went to work on the legislature to
allow night racing.
the lights came on, Latonia came to life.
a while everything was going great. But, Jacobs was only interested in taking
money out of his investment, not putting money in. By 1986 the physical plant
was in a dilapidated state and the quality of racing was low-class, attracting
very few fans.
came Jerry Carroll, a real estate developer with a flair for promotions. He took
Latonia off Jacobs’ hands, changed the name of the track to Turfway Park
and spent millions of dollars improving the plant and the quality of racing.
was a success. By 1988 Turfway was recognized as the “fastest growing
racetrack in America” by the Thoroughbred Racing Association (TRA). Carroll
was also credited with creating the $600,000 Jim Beam Stakes, which became a
major stepping-stone for three-year-olds on the road to the Triple Crown.
with the growth of legalized casino gambling through midwestern riverboats in
the 1990s, Turfway Park was in trouble again. By 1999 Carroll and his partners
ÂÃ‚Âdecided to get out of the pari-mutuel business. They ÂÃ‚Âfocused their energies
on auto racing through the building and operation of a motor sport facility ”” Kentucky
Speedway in Sparta, Ky.
new buyer was a three-way partnership involving Keeneland Race Course,
which became the track operator; GTECH Corp. (GTK) and Harrah’s
Entertainment Inc. (HET).
threesome has been actively lobbying for pending legislation that would put slot
machines in Kentucky racetracks. If they can convince the governor that the
concept doesn’t have to go before the people during the fall elections, they
could possibly get their needed shot in the arm as early as this summer. If they
need to wait for the vote of the populace they will have to try to survive until
sometime next year.
the meantime, Carroll has been working on a plan of his own. He has proposed
building a casino mega-center with partner Bill Butler of Corporex,
owner of the River Center Towers in Covington. It would be a stand-alone,
full-blown casino in the heart of Northern Kentucky.
the Kentuckians who have long fought against ÂÃ‚Âcasinos are now trying to put
gambling at Turfway Park. But, if Carroll gets out of the gate first with his
casino mega-center, Turfway could finish up the track.