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Churchill Down confirms plans to open casino-type venue in downtown Louisville near the home of the Kentucky Derby

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The company that owns Churchill Downs racetrack, home of the Kentucky Derby, placed its own big wager Thursday by announcing plans to open a casino-style venue in downtown Louisville.

With its new entertainment facility, to be called Derby City Gaming Downtown, the company is deepening its commitment to a form of wagering on historical horse races.

The venue will open with 500 historical horse racing machines, Churchill Downs Inc. said in a news release. The slot-style machines allow people to bet on randomly generated, past horse races. The games typically show video of condensed horse races.

Such ventures have become lucrative revenue sources for Kentucky racetracks. The tracks have reinvested some of the revenue to make the Bluegrass State’s horse racing circuit more competitive with casino-backed tracks in other states.

Churchill’s new 43,000-square-foot venue, projected to open in early 2023, will be about 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the historic racetrack where the first leg of the Triple Crown is run. Construction will begin later this year, the company said.

The venture will benefit the entire community and will generate $10 million to $12 million per year in additional purse money for races at Churchill Downs, Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said.

“It is important that Louisville is a city that is thriving — a great place to live, work and visit — and we are committed to helping create economic vibrancy for every area of our community,” he said.

The development will create 350 construction jobs and more than 100 permanent jobs once the venue opens, the company said. It will be strategically situated near the downtown convention center and a number of hotels. Louisville has become an increasingly big draw for bourbon tourists visiting downtown distilleries. Churchill said its new entertainment venue will include an open-air gaming area, bars and a retail store featuring for Kentucky Derby-themed merchandise.

Casino gaming is illegal in Kentucky, but the state legislature has allowed historical horse racing venues to operate. Those ventures were jeopardized last year when Kentucky’s Supreme Court ruled that at least some forms of wagering on historical horse racing didn’t meet pari-mutuel wagering standards. Lawmakers passed a measure this year intended to fix the flaws cited by the court.

Churchill already operates another historical horse racing betting facility in Louisville. Its current Derby City Gaming venue is in South Louisville, a few miles from the track.