This Just In: Ellis Park to Close

Ellis Park

(Ellis Park photo from the Courier-Journal)

The Courier-Journal is reporting that Ellis Park, Henderson’s race track, will close:

Ellis Park owner Ron Geary said tonight he’s closing the Henderson, Ky., racetrack.

Geary said he made the decision after a federal judge denied his request for an injunction against Kentucky horsemen that would have allowed him to offer the track’s races to national account wagering outlets.

We’ll have more details at some point either today or tomorrow, when we learn more via the C-J or other Kentucky news outlets.

UPDATE 7/3/08, 8:45 AM: The Courier‘s full story on the Ellis Park closing is up on their site, and basically it’s a doozy:

Ellis Park owner Ron Geary said last night that he is closing the 86-year-old Henderson, Ky., racetrack, which was scheduled to open its summer meeting tomorrow.

Geary said he made the decision after a federal judge denied his request for an injunction against Kentucky horsemen that would have allowed him to offer the track’s races to national account-wagering outlets that take bets by phone and online.

Geary called it a “permanent decision” for the track founded in 1922 that survived bankruptcy, flooding and even a tornado.

“I don’t have any plans on opening it again as a racetrack,” Geary said in a telephone interview. “That’s for sure.”

A formal announcement at the track will take place this morning, Geary said.

…Lisa Underwood, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, said Geary called her yesterday to inform her that the track would not open for the meet.

“I’m sorry that it came to this,” she said. “It’s sad for the industry, but I am not surprised.”

For years, Ellis had faced an uncertain future, and the dispute with horsemen only complicated that, as it has elsewhere across the country. The disagreement has hurt the Churchill Downs’ spring season, which concludes Sunday.

Churchill’s betting numbers have been down because the horsemen blocked its races from being offered to national account-wagering companies, like Churchill’s TwinSpires.com. Horsemen have that right to block races from interstate betting under a federal law.

The horsemen notified Geary last week that Ellis’ races would be blocked as well, which prompted Geary to file a lawsuit on Tuesday in U.S. District Court, where a hearing took place in Owensboro yesterday.

In the lawsuit, he said Ellis lost $2.7 million during the 2007 meet and would be forced to close without the revenue from account wagering.

Basically, if you had no idea until now, horse racing in Kentucky is in a bad way, as horsemen, track operators, and just about everybody involved squabbles over their share of what must be a decreasing pie.

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