Turfway Park expanding with slot-like machines

Posted at 9:58 PM, Dec 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-01 21:58:49-05

Correction: This story was modified to explain the difference between a slot machine and a historical race wagering device.

FLORENCE, Ky. -- Turfway Park is planning an expansion to house up to 250 "historical race wagering" machines that would take advantage of a 2014 Kentucky Supreme Court ruling that allows slots-style betting based on historical horse-race results.

The move would bring a seventh casino competitor to an already crowded gambling market in Cincinnati.

Under a proposal approved by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Tuesday, Turfway Park LLC plans to hire up to 35 new employees for the 10,000-square-foot expansion on the first floor of the Florence race track.

“The introduction of historical race wagering will enable Turfway to provide competitive purse structures and provide amenities for our patrons, which will strengthen the horse racing industry in Kentucky,” the company said in its proposal.

Slots-style betting parlors are already in place at three Kentucky horse racing tracks: Red Mile, Kentucky Downs and Ellis Park.

Turfway said the new wagering machines would be managed by Rock Gaming, the Detroit-based owner of the Horseshoe Cincinnati casino Downtown.

A spokesman for the Racing Commission said it will take several months to get the new machines up and running at Turfway. Once a facility is built to house the slot machines, they'll have to be inspected by state officials before they can be used by gamblers.

"We do not have a timeline at this point," said Turfway Park General Manager Daniel "Chip" Bach. Rock Gaming has been exploring the idea for several months and is now talking to potential contractors about building an operating the facility. Bach said a spring-time opening is "entirely possible," but the company hasn't established definitive plans.

Cincinnati's gaming industry has struggled with six rivals that battle for share in a market that's growing slowly. If Bach is worried about being the 7th rival in a crowded market, he's not showing it.

"We view these machines as a unique offering in the market," he said.

Rock Gaming spokeswoman Gayle Joseph said the machines are not slot machines because they're based on pari-mutuel wagering results.

"Similar to a traditional wager on a horse race, the guest will select the finishing order of the horses that have run in previous races, so it is not a slot machine," she said.

But a casino executive who will compete against Turfway told WCPO that the machines look, feel and play like slot machines.

"The slot machines here use a random number generator to determine whether you won or lost and the wheels spin to show you that outcome," said Daniel Lee, CEO of Full House Resorts, parent of the Rising Star Casino in Rising Sun, Ind. "They use a randomly generated horse race to show you whether you won or lost and spins the wheels to show you the result. It’s all done in a nanosecond so to the customer there’s no difference. It looks and feels like a slot machine."