File-Historical Horse Racing

Historical Horse Racing machines, like the one shown in this photo, continue to be big business in Kentucky.

(The Center Square) – Historical Horse Racing (HHR) is a booming business in the Bluegrass State, according to the latest figures from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Late last week, the commission released the June figures for the seven racetracks or satellite facilities that have the slot machine-like games where each bet is based on the outcome of previously run races.

For the 2021-22 fiscal year, which ended June 30, the HHR parlors reported a total handle – the amount wagered on the machines – of $6.8 billion. That’s a 47.8% jump in activity from the 2020-21 fiscal year.

The tracks reported adjusted revenues of $490.4 million, representing a 48.1% increase from the previous year.

Those increases exceeded the pace of growth in machines. In June 2021, there were 4,734 in operation across Kentucky. This past June, there were 5,569, an increase of 17.6%.

Thoroughbred and harness racing tracks have used the revenues generated from HHR machines to bolster purses and attract more horsemen to their racing operations to the state.

Kentucky collects a 1.5% excise tax on each dollar wagered in HHR machines. For fiscal year 21-22, the state received $102.2 million. Of that, $43 million went to a thoroughbred development fund, and $10.7 million went to a standardbred development fund.

The state’s general fund collected $47.1 million from the excise tax, up from $30.9 million in fiscal year 20-21.

According to a law passed by the General Assembly this spring, more tax money could begin going to the general fund beginning this fiscal year. As part of a horse racing wagering reform package, the state will reduce the amount that goes toward the development funds once they hit certain thresholds. That’s $45 million for thoroughbreds and $20 million for standardbred development funds.

And HHR continues to grow in Kentucky as well. Next month, Turfway Park in Florence will open its new $150 million grandstand complex, which will include more than 800 gaming machines.

Hundreds more will also be installed in Eastern Kentucky as Keeneland and Kentucky Downs prepare to open their joint venture Cumberland Run harness track in Corbin and a satellite facility in Williamsburg.

Beyond that, Churchill Downs has plans to expand its Derby City Gaming complex in Louisville. The $76 million project includes a 123-room hotel and 200 additional games to go with the more than 1,100 currently available.

Early next year, Churchill Downs plans to open a venue in downtown Louisville that’s expected to cater to tourists. That $80 million facility will offer 500 machines.