(The Center Square) – A development team wants to invest $55 million in Ashland, Kentucky, to bring quarter horse racing to the state.
Revolutionary Racing Kentucky wants to build a quarter horse track and the Eastern Kentucky Equestrian Center, which it says would bring 200 jobs to the city. It has applied for the ninth and last available racing license in Kentucky.
If approved by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, it would be the only quarter horse racing track in the state. It currently has five thoroughbred tracks, two harness tracks and another under construction.
Ashland, located in the northeastern corner of the state across from both Ohio and West Virginia, is an underserved part of the state regarding horse racing. The closest Kentucky tracks are Keeneland and Red Mile, both of which are more than 100 miles away in Lexington.
If Revolutionary Racing gets the license, it also would be able to install historical horse racing machines at the track. HHR machines are slot-like gaming devices. However, rather than use a random number generator to determine if the bet wins, HHR machines use the outcomes of previously run races.
There are 5,579 HHR machines at seven facilities across the state, according to KHRC's April revenue report. The tracks have used the revenues from HHR machines to invest in their racing facilities and boost purses to attract more horses to the tracks.
Ashland is part of the Huntington, West Virginia, metropolitan area, which includes more than 360,000 people in the tri-state area. The closest casino to the region is the Mardi Gras Casino & Resort in Cross Lanes, West Virginia, roughly 45 miles from Ashland.
"It's the last region of our commonwealth that doesn't enjoy racing and gaming ... and this area is primed for and deserving of investment," Preston Worley, a lawyer representing the development company, told KHRC commissioners during a presentation last week.
The team behind Revolutionary Racing has experience in the racing industry. That includes partnering with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment four years ago to buy Colonial Downs in Virginia. Company Chairman Larry Lucas previously served in a similar capacity at YouBet.com.
The KHRC has yet to act on the company's application. Chairman Johnathan Rabinowitz said at last week's meeting that staff members were about to begin the due diligence process of reviewing the proposal.