Tribe Partners on Kentucky Racecourse
The Eastern Cherokee Indians are a key partner in a $55 million effort to bring the state’s first dedicated horse racing track to a 200-acre property outside Ashland, Kentucky, with a groundbreaking ceremony held Friday, October 28.
“My thanks and gratitude to the Tribal Council for having the foresight to support this transaction and to EBCI Holdings, LLC, for bringing opportunities to EBCI,” President Richard Snead said in a Facebook post on October 29.
According to a press release from Revolutionary Racing Kentucky developer, the race will begin at the new facility, called Boyd County Downs, in 2024. Designed by Populous in consultation with the Kentucky Quarter Horse Racing Association, it will be Kentucky’s first dedicated quarter horse track and will also feature an equestrian center and recreation complex. . The racetrack will feature a 660-yard racetrack and $500,000 daily purses, the facility will support 200 “well-paid” full-time jobs and provide nearly $1 million annually in new tax revenue.
While the races will serve as its centerpiece, plans call for year-round use for quarter-horse shows and competitions, as well as an adjacent entertainment complex. These investments are expected to generate approximately $1 million in new local tax revenue each year.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said the project was a “game-changing milestone.”
“This is a historic day for the thousands of quarter horse owners who call Kentucky home,” said Richard Connelly, president of the Kentucky Quarter Horse Racing Association. “For decades, we’ve had to travel to other states to race, so we’re willing to welcome our friends from all over the country to come here and add the heritage and traditions of Kentucky horse racing.”
During a special meeting on Monday, October 31, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approved a change of control for Revolutionary Racing Kentucky giving EBCI an influential role. Previously, the company was owned by Prentice Salter and Lucas Family Trust. Now RRKY Acquisition, LLC – a wholly owned subsidiary of EBCI Holdings, LLC, owned by EBCI – owns 49% of the company. The majority of the 51% stake is owned by another LLC, ELS-RRKY Holdings LLC, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of ELS Gaming, LLC – a subsidiary of the previous owners of Revolutionary Racing Kentucky.
The committee had previously approved the Revolutionary Racing Kentucky license during the July 26 meeting. In a unanimous vote, the company granted and approved its ninth and final state horse racing license to conduct live horse racing, simulcast and equalized betting beginning in 2023.
The $55 million facility under construction in Ashland will not be completed when the license takes effect in 2023. The six approved race dates for 2023 will instead take place at the Red Mile in Lexington, the commission decided.
Boyd County Downs is the project in the Kentucky Tribal Council that was approved at a special meeting on April 13 under the code name “Project Thoroughbred”. The vote gave the green light for EBCI Holdings to bid on two gaming projects that would allow the LLC to expand into a new jurisdiction. The tribal council vote allowed EBCI Holdings to deposit $2.5 million and, if selected, receive an additional $25 million from the tribe to invest in a 44% equity stake, and to obtain debt financing for an additional $62 million.
During that meeting, Finance Minister Cory Blankenship said 75% of the profits would go back to the tribe, with EBCI Holdings keeping 25% to manage the management side of its operations. The tribal council will determine how the profits will be spent through a revenue allocation plan that will be considered at some point in the future.
The $55 million racetrack project is one of several eight- and nine-figure investments the tribe has agreed to over the past two years. In August, the foundation stone was laid for a $650 million casino development project in Danville, Virginia, in which EBCI Holdings holds a 49.5% stake. The LLC also purchased casino operations in Caesars Southern Indiana through a $280 million approval from the Tribal Council.
During the October 24 session, the Tribal Council approved $324 million for Kituwah LLC to purchase a sports-related brand and develop associated resort projects, and also approved $55 million earlier at the same meeting for various other investments in Kituwah LLC. These votes have brought the tribe’s total investment in Kituwah LLC over the past two years to $504 million, of which $110 million is earmarked for development efforts on a 200-acre property off Interstate 40 in Sevier County.
The tribe agreed to a $275 million expansion of the Valley River Casino in Murphy, a 30% stake in a $54.5 million hotel project in Pigeon Forge and a $39 million new hotel at Sequoia National Golf Club.
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