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Churchill Downs Inc. to open new entertainment site in downtown Louisville

500 historical racing machines expected in early 2023
Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 9:57 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 30, 2021 at 1:12 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Churchill Downs Inc. on Thursday announced plans to open a casino-like entertainment venue in downtown Louisville.

The 43,000-square-foot facility will be located at 140 South 4th Street, the old US Bank building at the corner of Market Street.

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Construction of Derby City Gaming Downtown will begin later this year, and is expected to be completed in time to open early in 2023, CDI said in a statement to media Thursday morning.

The statement also said the facility will include 500 historical racing machines, which allow patrons to wager on video replays of actual horse races that already have been run. Historical racing is also commonly referred to as “instant racing.”

“Our HRM expansion will be a win for the entire community in the Louisville area and will create $10 to $12 million per year in additional purse money for Churchill Downs Racetrack,” CDI CEO Bill Carstanjen said. “It is important that Louisville is a city that is thriving — a great place to live, work and visit and we are committed to helping create economic vibrancy for every area of our community. The West End Opportunity Partnership and our collaboration with OneWest can help us responsibly and sustainably achieve that vision.”

Carstanjen also announced CDI’s pledge of $1 million in support of that West End Opportunity Partnership.

“This is going to be about careers, and not just jobs,” he said. “The vision for Derby City Downtown is for this project to be a win for everyone in our community, with an impact for years to come.”

The project is expected to create 450 jobs for the local economy, including 350 construction jobs and more than 100 new permanent jobs. Those who spoke at Thursday’s nearly hour-long news conference repeated a variation of the word “intentional;” a key priority for the project will be aimed at benefiting some of Louisville’s underserved communities.

“No matter where you are in this world, all people want is for their life to matter, for their children to thrive and to earn a living,” Kentucky Rep. Pamela Stevenson, D-43, said. “And this is the beginning of that.”

Thursday’s news came just a day after CDI announced it had sold one of its track properties -- Arlington Park in suburban Chicago -- to the NFL’s Chicago Bears as that franchise considers relocating from Soldier Field, its current home along the Lake Michigan waterfront near the downtown area.

“Derby City Gaming Downtown will bring even more life to Fourth Street with just shy of an acre’s worth of space for more entertainment offerings, another stop for bourbon fans, a shopping outlet for Kentucky Derby merchandise and permanent jobs to downtown,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said Thursday. “Thank you, Churchill Downs, for your commitment, your investment and for your belief in our great city.”

In addition to the historical racing machines, the new venue will offer a sports bar, a bourbon library and a wine lounge, a stage for music and live entertainment, a retail and merchandise store and more than 200 onsite parking spots.

“The attraction will fulfill a need for much-requested evening options for convention delegates and give locals and visitors alike another authentic experience to enjoy in the heart of Bourbon and Derby City,” Louisville Tourism President & CEO Cleo Battle said.

A pandemic, protests and violent crime brought a chilling effect to Louisville’s downtown. CDI’s expansion of its gaming operations downtown is viewed a strong statement of confidence.

“This shows investment, promise, vibrancy,” Louisville Tourism Executive Vice President Doug Bennett said. “That should be the trigger to get more people to want to come downtown.”

The introduction of 500 Historical racing machines (HRMs) on the doorstep of the new Convention Center could also help the city compete with Southern Indiana casinos that routinely draw Louisville visitors to destinations across the river.

“It gives them an alternative and it stops a little bit of that drain,” Kentucky Speaker of the House David Osborne (R-Prospect) said. “Where the conversation will ultimately go, I don’t know.”

CDI also made a commitment to contracting services for the new venue with women and minority owned businesses. Previously targeted by protesters alleging a lack of diversity and community partnerships, CDI will be actively recruiting workers from west Louisville.

”Their commitment to making sure people get careers and not just jobs and that they’re sustainable, that was huge,” OneWest President Evon Smith said. “Because that has not always been the case.”

Casinos remain illegal in Kentucky, but the downtown location will be CDI’s fourth such venue and second in Louisville. Derby City Gaming opened on Poplar Level Road in 2018, and is the state’s only licensed gaming facility.

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Posted by WAVE 3 News on Thursday, September 30, 2021

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