HENDERSON, Ky. (WFIE) - The future of Ellis Park could be in jeopardy, and the issue has nothing to do with action on the track.
For over 10 years, Ellis Park’s Historical Horse Racing (HHR) machines have been a huge hit with customers, as well as a financial boom to the track. However, the Kentucky Supreme Court recently ruled these games as illegal.
If this decision is not overturned, track officials told 14 News that Ellis Park would have to close.
“This is so critical to (Ellis Park), this is so critical to the entire thoroughbred industry in the commonwealth of Kentucky,” Ellis Park General Manager Jeff Inman said.
HHR machines were created back in 2011, and injected economic life into a declining industry.
Locally at Ellis Park, it’s been a huge boost as these HHR machines supply 70% of the purse money for the races, and these purses have increased exponentially each year.
“If the purses drop by 70%, we wouldn’t get the world class racing that the commonwealth of Kentucky has been known for,” Inman said. “It’s our contention that HHR gaming is simply parimutuel wagering. We would like to see the legislators pass legislation that clarifies that. This is status quo, we’re not asking for anything extra.”
Inman says closing Ellis Park would be detrimental for the entire Henderson and Evansville area.
“Horses come to the commonwealth of Kentucky from Florida, Louisiana,” Inman said. “These people bring money, jobs and resources into Kentucky, so it’s not just us - it’s all the support that Kentucky gets.”
“It would be devastating for the Kentucky racing community, the horsemen, the employees,” Henderson Mayor Steve Austin said. “And it would be a shame to put that industry at a disadvantage.”
The Kentucky legislation is expected to reconvene on February 2.
14 News reached out to some of our local Kentucky representatives to ask about the issue, but they say they are not able to comment at this time until a bill has been written up officially when the legislature reconvenes.