Churchill Downs Moving Full Speed Ahead Into PA After Finalizing License

The state approved Churchill Downs’ purchase of Presque Isle Downs & Casino this week, and the company immediately applied for an online gambling license.

Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie is now a Churchill Downs property, and the company is taking it online.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved a change of control of the casino’s slot machine license this week. Churchill Downs will pay a change of control fee of $3.75 million to finalize the deal.

The Louisville, Kentucky-based horse racing industry giant now owns and operates numerous racetracks and casinos in at least eight states.

The Churchill-Eldorado deal

Earlier this month, it announced it had completed a deal to acquire Presque Isle Downs & Casino and take over the management of Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin in Farmington from Eldorado Resorts.

It originally planned to purchase Presque Isle Downs & Casino and the Lady Luck Vicksburg hotel and casino in Mississippi from Eldorado. However, the $51 million sale of the Mississippi casino was canceled in July 2018 after antitrust concerns were raised.

Churchill and Eldorado reworked the deal so that Churchill’s $179 million purchase of Presque Isle Downs & Casino will go ahead. However, it will now pay Eldorado a $5 million termination fee and take over operations of Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin instead, at a cost of $100,000.

When details of the original transaction were made public in February, Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said PA passing online gambling legislation was a major reason why:

“Presque Isle will give us a foothold in Pennsylvania which has recently passed legislation authorizing real money online gaming.”

Presque Isle Downs online casino

A clear picture of Churchill Downs’ PA online gambling plans also emerged this week when the company applied for online slots and online table games licenses at a cost of $4 million each.

Apparently, Churchill Downs will not be pursuing online poker under the Presque Isle Downs & Casino banner. However, an online casino is on its way.

Its plans for a Presque Isle Downs & Casino retail or mobile sportsbook are not so clear.

In fact, at the meeting approving its operator change, Churchill Downs representatives said its PA sports betting plan is still up in the air:

“We’re very interested, but have some concerns.”

Churchill Downs and SBTech

In May, Churchill Downs announced it had entered into a strategic partnership with sports betting and iGaming platform supplier SBTech. The partnership will ultimately see SBTech provide its integrated technology platform for sports betting and iGaming solutions to Churchill Downs across the United States.

In fact, SBTech said it will provide Churchill with both its sports betting platform and Chameleon360 iGaming platform. Whether that complete product will roll out in Pennsylvania under the Presque Isle Downs & Casino banner remains to be seen.

Already taking bets online

In the meantime, Churchill Downs is already taking bets online in Pennsylvania. Churchill Downs’ TwinSpires online horse race wagering service has been in operation since 2007. It takes online bets on almost every horse race available in more than 30 states, including Pennsylvania.

The casino at Presque Isle Downs & Casino features 1,500 slot machines and a little more than 30 table games.

In 2017, Presque Isle Downs & Casino posted $111,164,968 in slot machine revenue, putting it 10th among the state’s 12 casinos. Additionally, its $14,470,503 in table games revenue made it 11th of 12 PA casinos in that category.

Churchill Downs Diving Headfirst Into PA And NJ Online Casino, Sports Betting

Churchill Downs is about to make a big splash in the legal and regulated online gambling and sports betting markets in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Churchill Downs is about to make a big splash in the legal and regulated online gambling and sports betting markets in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The Louisville, Kentucky racing and gaming giant, best known as owner and operator of The Kentucky Derby, announced its entry into the markets this week through a pair of partnership agreements.

First, Churchill Downs inked a strategic partnership agreement with SBTech to use SBTech’s integrated technology platform for both its online gambling and sports betting operations.

According to a press release from Churchill Downs, SBTech will provide the company with an online gaming and sports betting software platform. This includes a website, mobile apps, and back-office systems.

Churchill Downs says the partnership is initially intended to enable it to enter online gambling and sports betting markets in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Both states have already approved online gambling and sports betting.

Pennsylvania is in the middle of setting up the regulatory framework for both markets.

New Jersey has had legal and regulated online gambling since 2013. It is currently setting up regulations for its sports betting market. New Jersey is expected to be the first new state to accept legal sports bets. This following the US Supreme Court decision this week repealing a federal ban on sports betting.

Of course, Churchill Downs is already in the online gambling sphere. However, it’s online horse race wagering site will continue to run separately from its new SBTech sites.

Churchill Downs in PA

Churchill Downs announced in March it planned to purchase Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie with an eye on the burgeoning PA online gambling market. In fact, Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said the reason it acquired Presque Isle was to get a foothold in Pennsylvania where online gambling legislation just passed.

Presque Isle Downs & Casino features:

  • 1,600 slots
  • 32 table games
  • A poker room
  • Thoroughbred racing on 100 dates annually

Currently, only the 13 PA casino license holders can apply for online gambling licenses in the state. Licenses are being made available in three categories including online slots, online table games, and online poker.

Churchill Downs and Golden Nugget Atlantic City

In New Jersey, Churchill Downs has also inked an agreement with Golden Nugget Atlantic City. It plans to enter into the NJ online gambling and sports betting markets under Golden Nugget’s license. Churchill Downs is awaiting new sports betting legislation and online gambling license approval in the state first. However, it is planning to launch both operations in the first quarter of 2019.

Carstanjen said Churchill Downs is eagerly anticipating entry into both NJ markets:

“We are looking forward to offering integrated iGaming and sports betting products in New Jersey. We have the unique opportunity to leverage our knowledge and experience operating the largest legal online horse racing wagering business in the U.S. as we enter the iGaming and sports betting markets.”

Online gambling has already been a huge success for Golden Nugget Atlantic City. It’s own online casino site has the largest selection of games in the market. Plus, the Betfair and PlaySugarHouse NJ online casino sites run under its license. Together, the Golden Nugget site are the runaway revenue leader in NJ online gambling. In fact, they are pulling in more than $7 million a month.

Golden Nugget’s Senior Vice President and General Manager of Online Gaming Thomas Winter welcomed Churchill Downs aboard:

“We welcome Churchill Downs, a respected US gaming operator with online wagering experience, to New Jersey. The addition of their offering will allow Golden Nugget Atlantic City to cater to an even larger demographic of New Jersey online players.”

Churchill Downs Races Into Pennsylvania Online Gambling Market

Churchill Downs is the latest company to buy up a Pennsylvania casino. The racing giant purchased Presque Isle Downs with hopes of getting into the state’s online gambling market.

Racetrack and gaming giant Churchill Downs Incorporated has entered into a purchase agreement to acquire Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie, Pennsylvania with an eye on entering Pennsylvania’s new online gambling market.

Churchill Downs has also inked a separate purchase agreement to acquire Lady Luck Casino in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Both properties are currently owned by Reno, Nevada’s Eldorado Resorts, Inc.

Eldorado Resorts owns and operates 20 casino properties in ten states, including Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin in Farmington, PA.

Churchill Downs will pay approximately $229.5 million in cash combined for both Presque Isle Downs and Lady Luck Casino Vicksburg.

The purchase of Presque Isle Downs is dependent on certain closing conditions. These include Churchill Downs securing a gaming license from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

Plus, according to Churchill Downs, the deal is also dependent on the company being granted a racing license. The Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission is responsible for issuing racing licenses in Pennsylvania.

According to a Churchill Downs press release, the Presque Isle Downs transaction will close in the fourth quarter of 2018.

However, it is also dependent on the closing of the Lady Luck Vicksburg deal. That transaction requires Churchill Downs to secure a gaming license from the Mississippi Gaming Commission. It will close in the second quarter of 2018.

Presque Isle racetrack and casino

Presque Isle Downs opened in February 2007. It operates approximately 1,600 slots, 32 table games, and a poker room. Additionally, there is live thoroughbred racing on approximately 100 dates per year on the property.

Churchill Downs Chief Executive Officer Bill Carstanjen said the opportunity to enter Pennsylvania’s new online gambling market may be what interests the company most:

“Presque Isle will give us a foothold in Pennsylvania which has recently passed legislation authorizing real money online gaming.”

Pennsylvania lawmakers passed a comprehensive gambling bill in October 2017 authorizing the issue of online gambling licenses in categories including slots, table, game, and poker. The regulatory and licensing process is just in the beginning stages. However, existing casino license holders will have the first opportunity to claim the licenses.

Churchill Downs calls Louisville, Kentucky home. Accordingly, the company has interests in gaming and racing across the country, including its flagship Churchill Downs Racetrack, home of the iconic Kentucky Derby horse race.

Additionally, Churchill Downs owns the TwinSpires online horse racing wagering service. Calling itself the country’s premier online wagering company, allows players to bet on just about every thoroughbred, harness, and quarter horse race from venues across the globe.

Photo by Alexey Stiop /