Kentucky regulators greenlight Ellis Park's $16.7M casino proposal in Owensboro | Yogonet International
Historical racing machines

Kentucky regulators greenlight Ellis Park's $16.7M casino proposal in Owensboro

Ellis Park in Henderson, Kentucky.
2021-10-27
United States
Reading time 2:03 min
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Tuesday approved a “non-contiguous” racing license. The Ellis Park Owensboro's 60,000-square-foot venue plans to initially open with 600 horse racing machines, a simulcast betting and viewing area, and a new race and sports-themed restaurant. It will be located in the Towne Square Mall development. Construction is planned to begin in early 2022 with an anticipated opening date in early 2023.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approved on Tuesday a “non-contiguous” racing license for Ellis Park, allowing the track to proceed with plans to open a casino in nearby Owensboro. 

According to Ellis Park officials who spoke in front of the commision on Tuesday, the casino will be located in an existing building on the main business street in Owensboro, which is a 30-minute drive from Ellis Park in Henderson, and it will have 600 historical 

The Ellis Park Owensboro venue plans to initially open with a selection of 600 historical horse racing machines, a simulcast betting and viewing area, and a new race and sports themed restaurant. Additionally, the new facility will feature a stadium-style race and sports themed bar and grill that will offer a unique experience in Western Kentucky. Construction on the new facility is planned to begin in early 2022 with an anticipated opening date in early 2023.

Ellis Park has been seeking approval since concerns rose regarding Laguna Development Corp.’s management of the track. Laguna, the business development arm of the Laguna Pueblo tribe of New Mexico, bought Ellis for $11 million in 2019 and promised to spend $100 million on track improvements, including a new hotel. 

COO of Laguna, Tim Perkins, told the commissioners that the company’s cash flow slowed due to COVID-related shutdowns of its two casinos in New Mexico, thus restricting the company’s ability to invest in Ellis. 

He also said that the company has reached a deal on a new line of credit to fund the build-out of the Owensboro casino and $15 million in renovations to Ellis Park over the next several years. One of those Ellis projects is a $4 million installation of lights that will enable Ellis to run at night for the first time in its 99-year history. Another is the widening of the turf course.

Perkins said that Laguna spent $3.5 million on improvements to Ellis during the pandemic, but he acknowledged that the money had been spent on general repairs to “get a 100-year-old track up to working order.”

The Owensboro casino is the fifth “non-contiguous” license that the KHRC has awarded. Kentucky Downs, Churchill Downs, Turfway Park, and a new harness track planned for the Corbin area also have been approved for satellite gambling facilities, in addition to the licenses already awarded at all of the existing tracks.

Also at the meeting, the KHRC approved race dates for 2022 that will have several changes from years past. Turfway Park will now run on a Friday-Sunday schedule in the winter, with Thursdays optional, after running on a Thursday-Saturday schedule, with Wednesday optional, last winter.

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