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Churchill Downs to Buy Turfway Park, Build New Facility

Churchill Downs announced Thursday that it will acquire Turfway Park in Florence, tear it down, and construct a new facility.

The news comes a month after Churchill Downs had previously stated it would build a new facility called New Latonia at an unannounced location in Northern Kentucky and that it would compete for Turfway's race dates.

Turfway's owner, JACK Entertainment, which had operated JACK Casino in Cincinnati until selling it to Hard Rock International, was in the process of selling the horse-race track to Hard Rock as well.

JACK and Hard Rock said they would jointly defend Turfway's race dates when the issue goes before the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission in November.

The issue could be moot now.

Churchill announced that it would buy Turfway for $46 million in cash from JACK and Hard Rock, subject to certain working capital and other purchase price adjustments.

The closing of the transaction is contingent upon approval by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (“KHRC”). The KHRC has scheduled a meeting for October 8th and, if the change of control is approved, the parties expect to close the transaction shortly thereafter, a news release said.

“We are thrilled to welcome Turfway Park to the Churchill Downs racing family,” said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Race Track, in a news release. “Our team is poised to restore Turfway to its former glory, anchored by northern Kentucky’s first historical racing machine facility. The result will be a first-class racing product fueled by increased purses that keeps high-quality horses in Kentucky year-round and appeals to horseplayers nationwide.”

Subject to KHRC approval, the 2019-2020 winter Thoroughbred racing meet at Turfway Park will be conducted on racing dates previously awarded to Turfway Park for December 2019 and in accordance with the schedule of racing dates submitted by JACK to the KHRC for 2020, the release said. Upon receiving approval for the change of control, CDI will not pursue its previously announced New Latonia Racing & Gaming project in northern Kentucky and will withdraw its New Latonia race dates application with the KHRC.

Immediately after closing, Churchill Downs will commence planning for the demolition of the existing grandstand at Turfway after the 2019-2020 meet, making way for development of Turfway Park Racing & Gaming (“New Turfway Park”), an up to $150 million (including today’s announced purchase price) state-of-the art live and historical Thoroughbred racing facility.

New Turfway Park is anticipated to support up to 400 direct full and part time equivalent positions and create an estimated 800 direct construction jobs, the news release said. The project will include a historical racing machine facility featuring up to 1,500 machines, a state-of-the-art clubhouse, food/beverage venues and a new inner dirt track to complement the existing one-mile synthetic main race track.

“This is the best possible news for horse racing in Northern Kentucky as well the state’s year-round racing circuit," said State Senator Damon Thayer, a Georgetown Republican who used to handle communications for Turfway. "The purchase of Turfway Park by Churchill Downs will unleash a new era of prosperity to include higher purses, better facilities for horses and humans and an exciting entertainment experience for customers. Churchill Downs is one of the most respected names in horse racing, and I’m proud that it has seen the tremendous potential for the sport in Northern Kentucky.”

-Staff report