Churchill Downs Takes Major Step with Saratoga Acquisition

Churchill Downs Takes Major Step with Saratoga Acquisition

Churchill Downs Incorporated announced on Wednesday that they had closed on their acquisition of a previously agreed to deal with Saratoga Casino Holdings.

The deal, which was previously agreed to back in July, gives Churchill Downs the remaining 50% ownership of Casino at Ocean Downs and Ocean Downs Racetrack for Churchill’s 25% equity interest in Saratoga Casino Holdings.

In the 25% equity that Churchill is giving up, they also relinquishing all control over Saratoga Springs in New York or Saratoga Casino Black Hawk in Colorado.

Churchill Downs Moves to Grow

With the remainder of the deal finally being completed, Churchill Downs Incorporated has sole ownership of Ocean Downs and Ocean Downs Racetrack in Berlin, Maryland.

The racetrack was opened in 1949, and operated until 1991 when it went bankrupt. The tracks cycled through several owners through the 90’s and 00’s, only turning over to the joint venture of Churchill Downs and Saratoga in 2017.

The track is known for harness racing, going so far as to halt simulcasting of thoroughbred races when Bally Entertainment bought the track in 1997. The track also added a casino in 2011 when Maryland voters approved a referendum to allow slot machines in five casinos.

Other terms of the deal include a deal between Churchill Downs and Saratoga Harness Racing that allows Churchill to operate sports betting and online gaming on behalf of Saratoga Harness Racing in New York and Colorado for 15 years.

Beyond deals with Saratoga, Churchill announced a dead with SBTech in May of 2018 to help launch Churchill’s eventual sports betting services. Churchill also announced a partnership with Golden Nugget in Atlantic City.

While only affecting New Jersey and Pennsylvania currently, Churchill hopes to extend to other states once sports betting is legalized elsewhere in the nation.

Churchill Pushes for Harness Racing

With their acquisition of Ocean Downs Racetrack, Churchill immediately got to work pushing for more harness racing, starting in Kentucky.

Churchill Downs is joining forces with Keeneland to bring forward a new horse racing facility in Oak Grove, Christian Country, Kentucky. The $125 million proposal would include a gambling parlor, hotel, grandstand, amphitheater and equestrian center.

The proposal also involves beginning harness racing at Louisville in 2019 where Churchill is currently building a new racing parlor.

“The 2019 meet is a critical, short-term measure to support the standardbred racing circuit and bridge the gap to future races in 2020 at the new Oak Grove racing venue,” said Churchill in a news release.

Keeneland vice president and chief operating officer Vince Gabbert:

“Bringing standardbred racing to Louisville in 2019 and then to Christian County in 2020 and beyond is critical to maintain Kentucky’s preeminent status as the horse racing capital of the world.”

Harness racing would move to the Oak Grove facility in 2020, where it would host 15 days of standardbred racing a year, generating an estimated $20 million according to Churchill and Keeneland.

The proposed racing facility would help replace the Thunder Ridge Raceway, which closed permanently and surrendered it’s racing license in October of 2017. Thunder Ridge served as one of the three harness racetracks in Kentucky, the others being The Red Mile and Bluegrass Downs.