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The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) continues to diversify its gaming portfolio. This time, the North Carolina-based tribe is heading to Kentucky, where it will be a significant partner in Revolutionary Racing’s $55 million quarter horse racing complex.
EBCI Principal Chief Richard Sneed joined with officials from Revolutionary Racing and Keeneland – another strategic partner in the development – along with state and local officials in Ashland, Ky., Friday to break ground on the project.
The development, which will include slot-like historical horse racing (HHR) machines, will help fill a couple of areas of opportunity in Kentucky’s gaming market.
Even though it’s one of the top states for horse racing, Kentucky doesn’t currently have a quarter-horse facility. Ashland is also part of the Huntington, W.Va., metro area, which has a population of more than 360K people in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. The closest casino is the Mardi Gras Casino and Resort in Cross Lanes, W.Va, which is about an hour away. The closest HHR parlor is in Lexington, roughly two-and-a-half hours away.
Besides the track and the HHR parlor, Revolutionary Racing’s Ashland development will also include an equestrian center for horse shows. In all, the project is expected to create more than 200 full-time jobs.
“We are excited about what this means to the people of Eastern Kentucky,” Revolutionary Racing Kentucky Chairman Larry Lucas said. “This investment will create jobs, bring in new tax revenues, and make Boyd County a destination for horse owners and racing fans from around the country.”
Latest Investment for EBCI
The EBCI is investing in Revolutionary Racing Kentucky through its commercial gaming division, EBCI Holdings.
On Monday, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) approved EBCI Holdings taking a 49% stake in the project.
We couldn’t have found a better group to partner with or a better project to support,” said Richard Sneed, EBCI Principal Chief. “We have a long-term commitment to community reinvestment and providing best-in-class entertainment offerings to underserved markets. This world-class project aligns perfectly with that commitment.”
The tribal nation established EBCI Holdings two years ago as a way to shore up its gaming revenues. It has two casinos on land the tribe owns in western North Carolina. But tribal leaders were concerned that a casino under development by the Catawba Nation in Kings Mountain, NC, would impact their business.
EBCI Holdings purchased Caesars Southern Indiana from Caesars Entertainment in December 2020 for $250 million. It also purchased a stake in Caesars’ casino under construction in Danville, Va. In addition, EBCI Holdings has established a $10 million gaming tech incubator fund.
Quarter Horse Racing Starts Next Year
With construction underway, Revolutionary Racing plans to be ready to race on its 660-yard sprint track in Ashland in 2024. Daily purses at the track are expected to be up to $500,000, which means it will offer some of the most lucrative races in the sport.
But quarter horse racing will take place in Kentucky next year at The Red Mile. The Lexington harness track will host Revolutionary Racing’s 2023 meet beginning in April. Those dates were approved at Monday’s KHRC meeting in Lexington.
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