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Kentucky Track Cuts Live Racing to Concentrate on Online Gambling

While track officials said the decision is a product of the recession, others pointed to statements acknowledging the growing importance of Internet gambling to the track operator as a reason to neglect live meetings.

Churchill Downs announced it is asking the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for permission to drop its live racing format from five days to four for the remainder of the spring meet. While track officials said the decision is a product of the recession, others pointed to statements acknowledging the growing importance of Internet gambling to the track operator as a reason to neglect live meetings.

Kentucky is currently embroiled in an attempt to seize 141 online casino domain names, an action undertaken by Governor Steve Beshear ostensibly to protect the live racing industry and its jobs. But Churchill Downs CEO Bob Evans says new revenues come from the Internet department, and online gaming will be an increasing share of Churchill's affairs "because the growth rates of these new businesses are higher than [those in] racing."

While seeking to add slots and expand its protected Internet gambling business, Churchill is planning on dropping Wednesday racing and cutting purses for some stakes races. Twenty percent of the live schedule will be dropped, while online wagering grows without fear of competition.

"We've met with the horsemen and they understand that given a host of unpleasant options, this is the most palatable," Churchill spokesman Kevin Flanery said.

State lawmakers asserted that tracks in neighboring states were using slot machines to pull patrons over state lines. One wit questioned why Beshear doesn't seize those tracks and shut them down as harmful to "Kentucky's signature industry."

Published on May 12, 2009 by EdBradley

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