In the space of about a minute, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission turned a proposal into reality by approving the ninth and final Commonwealth horse racing license for a track in a Boyd county.
The commission voted unanimously in favor of Revolutionary Racing’s bid for a track near the Camp Landing Entertainment District, a move expected to bring $55 million in investment, 200 permanent jobs and a lab worker union or in construction.
Larry Lucas, president of Revolutionary Racing, said he was delighted with the news, calling it a big day for Boyd County. He said the support from local and state leaders has been “incredible” and that the quick approval – the commission received plans for the track at its June meeting – was the result of due diligence and building a “world class team”.
“This license has been dormant since 1978,” Lucas said. “We brought in experts from across the industry to make sure we had a world-class team to move this project forward.”
The track — construction is expected to begin on the 177 acres behind Camp Landing by the end of the year — will be Kentucky’s only quarter horse racing track and one of the most easterly in the country.
Quarter horse racing is akin to drag racing with horses, with the animals sprinting side by side down a straight track. Plans are for a 660-yard sprint track with a daily purse of $500,000.
It’s primarily a western United States affair, with the biggest races taking place in New Mexico and California. In Kentucky, quarter horse races were periodically held as shows on trotter tracks.
The roughly 400 historic horse racing machines slated to fit into the former Sears building, which the county approved earlier this year for lease to Revolutionary Racing, will drive purses up at the track.
HHRs, as they’re known in the industry, look and play like slot machines, but instead of using in-game algorithms, they’ve been programmed to pay out based on past horse racing results. . Unlike slot machines, where one player bets against the machine, HHR players bet against each other in a pool, just like in a normal horse race.
The financial impact of HHRs has been transformational in the horse racing industry – the handle (total bets made) on HHRs was $4.6 billion in 2021, compared to $1.3 billion for all statewide thoroughbred racing.
Lucas said having a building already in place for the HRH allows the project to move forward more quickly.
“We don’t need to build a building, it’s already there,” he said. “I think the proof is in the pudding with the sale of Malibu Jack’s. This shows that smart money recognizes that these two attractions can feed off each other.
Jason Camp, owner of Camp Landing, was a vocal critic of the building’s gaming center – when the tax court was in lease talks, he ruled against it, saying it wouldn’t fit the atmosphere Malibu Jack’s family, an arcade and an indoor amusement park.
On Tuesday, Camp said he “was very excited for the racetrack and the equestrian center as a neighbor behind us.”
“We just hope we can work with the Revolutionary Racing team to achieve a mutually beneficial partnership on the gaming facility located at Camp Landing,” Camp said. “Our No. 1 concern is safety and the family atmosphere that we currently have here.”
In a press release issued by Revolutionary Racing after the vote, Boyd County Executive Judge Eric Chaney said the approval was the result of strong support from local leaders.
“We all came together on this project because we understand what it will mean for our community – from jobs to tax revenue to quality of life,” Chaney said. “Revolutionary Racing has been a true partner with us throughout this process and we hope they will be part of our community for many years to come.”
Letters of support obtained by The Independent Daily shows state senators Robin Webb and Julie Adams and state representatives Scott Sharp, John Blanton and Patrick Flannery throwing their support behind the project in early May.
Chaney, as well as commissioners Keith Watts, Larry Brown and Randy Stapleton also wrote letters of support in early May. Less than a month later, Stapleton voted against leasing the Sears building to the race track on moral grounds.