Churchill Downs Incorporated makes tentative agreement to purchase Ellis Park

Churchill Downs Incorporated makes tentative agreement to purchase Ellis Park
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 6:35 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 16, 2022 at 2:00 AM EDT
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HENDERSON, Ky. (WFIE) - Churchill Downs Incorporated announced Thursday that it purchased Ellis Park Racing and Gaming for $79 million in cash.

Churchill Downs previously owned Ellis Park from 1998-2006.

They now own the race track in Henderson, and they will also be responsible for the completion of a planned off-track gaming center in Owensboro.

Henderson County Judge Executive Brad Schneider said the corporation’s firm ownership could mean stability for an attraction that’s meant a lot to the Henderson community.

“It’s one of our biggest tourist attractions,” he said. “It is one of our biggest employers when our need is live. It’s our big-league sports team. It operates at the highest level of racing.”

Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said

In a released statement, Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said they are committed to building a summer meet to keep more trainers and horses in their home state.

Schneider said he hopes it will keep a rich history going strong.

“It’s important I think for our community identity,” he said. “It’s our portion of the greatest horse-racing circuit in the world.”

The corporation says it will be revealing more about its plans in the coming days.

The press release announcing the acquisition is shown below:

Churchill Downs Incorporated (“CDI”) (Nasdaq: CHDN) announced today that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Ellis Park Racing & Gaming (“Ellis Park”) in Henderson, Kentucky, from Enchantment Holdings, LLC, an affiliate of Laguna Development Corporation, for total consideration of $79 million in cash, subject to certain working capital and other purchase price adjustments. CDI will also assume Ellis Park’s opportunity to construct a track extension facility in Owensboro, Kentucky.

“This is an exciting announcement for the horse racing industry, the cities of Henderson and Owensboro, and the entire Commonwealth of Kentucky,” said Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear. “Churchill Downs has proven it has the experience, resources, and desire to reinvigorate Ellis Park into a premier racing destination and provide unmatched gaming entertainment.”

Ellis Park, located north of the Ohio River and just south of Evansville, Indiana, celebrated 100 years of racing this year. In addition to being recognized as the historic home of summer Thoroughbred racing in Kentucky, Ellis Park also features a gaming facility venue with approximately 300 historical racing machines (“HRMs”).

“We are very enthused to welcome Ellis Park to the Churchill Downs racing family,” said Bill Carstanjen, Chief Executive Officer of CDI. “Our team is committed to building a summer meet at the ‘Pea Patch’ that keeps more Kentucky-bred horses and Kentucky-based trainers’ in their home state while attracting top horse racing talent from across the country to the Bluegrass State each July and August.”

“Churchill Downs Incorporated is a proven partner in communities it already operates in, providing both entertainment and economic development benefits,” Speaker David Osborne said. “This acquisition is also a boost to one of our state’s signature industries and the direct result of legislation we passed to help make our tracks more competitive. Churchill Downs’ commitment to a year-round horse racing circuit in the Commonwealth is not only a smart business move, but also necessary to sustain and grow an industry that provides 80,000 jobs and millions to local and state economies.”

“Churchill Downs Incorporated is stepping up to the plate as we push towards our common goal of ensuring Kentucky has the strongest year-round horse racing circuit in the country,” said Sen. Damon Thayer. “With Churchill Downs’ commitment to upgrading the racetrack infrastructure and enhancing the experience for equestrians and visitors, Ellis Park will now become an even better choice for summer racing. Investments like this were partly made possible by the great work of the General Assembly to adopt SB 120 in 2021. I look forward to continuing our work of bolstering Kentucky’s signature equine industry in coming legislative sessions.”

The closing of the transaction is contingent upon approval by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (“KHRC”). If change of control is approved, the parties expect to close the transaction shortly thereafter.

CDI has commenced planning to make both critical investments in the Ellis Park racing infrastructure and to construct Owensboro Racing & Gaming, a track extension and entertainment venue at Owensboro’s Towne Square Mall that will feature 600 HRMs, a simulcast wagering center, and multiple food and beverage offerings. Over the next year, CDI expects its total investment in Henderson and Daviess Counties to be approximately $75 million in addition to the purchase price.

“The opportunity to bring Churchill Downs to Owensboro is particularly significant to us,” said Jason Sauer, Senior Vice President of Corporate Development for CDI, “We are eager to start the work to elevate Ellis Park’s reputation as a summer destination for Thoroughbred racing while delivering a premier gaming and entertainment experience to Daviess County. We look forward to sharing more exciting details about our plans in the coming days.”

“This is a big day for our city and region. The announcement that Churchill Downs Incorporated will purchase Ellis Park is great news” said Steve Austin, Mayor of Henderson, “Their plans to revamp the facility and provide unrivaled gaming entertainment will attract not only top-notch trainers and horses but also tourists and economic development. This investment will create jobs at the racetrack and gaming venue and increase employment opportunities in industries supporting those operations. Churchill Downs has proven to be a reliable community partner throughout the Commonwealth. We are excited to welcome them to Henderson and be working together.”

“Kentucky racing just took another step forward with the purchase of Ellis Park by Churchill Downs Incorporated,” said Rick Hiles, President of the Kentucky division of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (“KY HBPA”). “We’ve seen the results of CDI-owned properties and it is our pleasure as the KY HBPA to work with them to bring Ellis Park back to the place it use to be. We know as horsemen that they will do things right.”