Kentucky Downs, which has been owned by the Kentucky Downs Partners, LLC investment group since 2007, has a new owner. According to a press release, the racetrack has been purchased by Kentucky Racing Acquisition, LLC (KRA), a company that was recently found by Ron Winchell and Marc Falcone.
Winchell is a well-known thoroughbred breeder and horse racer and Falcone is the former executive VP, chief financial officer and treasurer of Red Rock Resorts and Stations Casinos. He moved to the casino industry after working on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs.
The terms of the acquisition have not been released. It comes at a time when horse racing is losing steam in the U.S. In an effort to keep their businesses alive, operators have been lobbying lawmakers to allow them to be able to expand their operations to include other gambling products, such as slot machines.
Their efforts may be paying off, especially in Kentucky. Senator Julian Carroll, who was Kentucky’s governor from 1974-1979, submitted a sports gambling bill last week that could legalize sports gambling at both existing horse racetracks and pari-mutuel facilities. If approved, it would introduce a tax on net revenue of 25%.
Winchell is excited about the opportunity to own the racetrack. He said in the press release, “Some of my fondest early memories are of visiting race tracks with my father and thoroughbred racing has been a passion of mine ever since. As such, I am personally thrilled to be carrying our family name into this exciting opportunity to take the reins of Kentucky Downs, one of American racing’s great success stories of the past decade. This represents the first step in KRA’s plan to further advance racing and HHR in the Commonwealth.”
Falcone is equally enthusiastic. He asserted, “Our agreement to acquire Kentucky Downs represents a terrific opportunity that is consistent with our business plan to grow through strategic investments in racing facilities and apply our operational and management expertise to support future growth. Our commitment to horse racing extends beyond this announced plan to acquire Kentucky Downs as Ron and I believe there are other opportunities where our combined expertise and experience can help foster consistent growth for the sport.
“KRA is committed to continually improve and enhance the business at Kentucky Downs by investing new capital in additional food, beverage and hospitality offerings as well as in technology and property infrastructure to grow the customer’s entertainment experience,” Falcone added. “KRA also is focused on the potential opportunity to develop a new facility in Oak Grove, Ky., if awarded that license by KHRC. An Oak Grove property under the umbrella of the new Kentucky Downs ownership would enable constructive marketing and operational synergies, optimizing market development and economic return to the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the many stakeholders in Kentucky racing, including owners, trainers, breeders and other professionals. With Kentucky Downs’ familiarity and understanding of the Nashville market, KRA would be strategically positioned to maximize that market for Kentucky.”
Should the deal be approved by regulators, it could be consummated during the first quarter of next year. It is subject to oversight by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and other regulatory guidelines and the acquisition is now being reviewed.