Churchill Downs Is Now Proud Owner Of Ellis Park Racing & Gaming In Kentucky

Written By Katarina Vojvodic on September 27, 2022
churchill downs ellis park new ownership

Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) revealed on Sept. 26 that it had completed its previously announced purchase of Ellis Park Racing & Gaming in Henderson, Kentucky.

CDI has completed a $79-million deal to purchase Ellis Park from Enchantment Holdings, an affiliate of Laguna Development Corporation. The purchase is subject to specific working capital and other purchase price adjustments.

Upon acquiring Ellis Park, Churchill Downs is assuming the rights to build a track addition facility in Owensboro as part of the agreement.

Churchill Downs finalizes Ellis Park acquisition

Ellis Park’s purchase follows the approval of the transaction by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC). The $79-million transaction was funded with cash through Churchill Downs’ existing credit facility. The parties plan to close the transaction shortly after the official change of control.

In the company’s press release, Bill Carstanjen, Churchill Downs’ CEO said:

“Our team is already hard at work in both Henderson and Owensboro. In the coming days, we look forward to sharing more about our plans to invest in the racing infrastructure at Ellis Park and to drive significant purse improvement through the Owensboro historical racing opportunity.”

Churchill now plans to invest in Ellis Park’s racing infrastructure and construct Owensboro Racing & Gaming, a track extension and entertainment location at Owensboro’s Towne Square Mall.

The new place will include 600 historical racing machines (HRMs), a simulcast wagering center with food and beverage offerings. CDI initially expected its total investment in Henderson and Daviess Counties to be approximately $75 million on top of the purchase price.

Long-awaited economic progress for Kentucky

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear commented earlier this month that this is an exciting announcement for the horse racing industry, the cities of Henderson and Owensboro, and the entire Commonwealth of Kentucky.

“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. This investment will ensure our Kentucky horsemen and women have the best year-round racing circuit in the country and create jobs throughout the region and state. Churchill Downs is a great corporate citizen and an important part of Team Kentucky,” Beshear said.

On the same occasion, Jason Sauer, CDI’s Senior VP of Corporate Development added:

“The opportunity to bring Churchill Downs to Owensboro is particularly significant to us. 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.”

As agreed, CDI will acquire all the equity of Ellis Entertainment, LLC, the parent company of Ellis Park. The KHRC directed that Ellis Park will run its usual 24 summer race dates in 2023 under new management. It’s just the latest move in what’s been a busy year of targeted expansion for Churchill Downs.

While Churchill Downs has shut down its Twinspires online gambling product in many US jurisdictions, it has made several acquisitions to build on its retail gaming presence in 2022. That includes Chasers Poker Room in New Hampshire and Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, which operated 12 facilities.

Ellis Park celebrated 100 years of racing this year and is considered the historic summer home of thoroughbred racing in Kentucky. Located north of the Ohio River and just south of Evansville in Indiana, the property also has a gaming capacity of approximately 300 historical horse racing machines.

Photo by AP Photo/Garry Jones
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Katarina Vojvodic

Katarina Vojvodic is a lead writer for PlayUSA who lives in Toronto. Vojvodic provides coverage of the US gambling industry with a focus on US online casinos. Previously, she covered Ontario’s online gambling industry for Vojvodic holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade. Outside working hours, she can be found near the water with her husband and their two kids.

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