While the Kentucky Racing Commission had previously stated that it would not take action on the applications for two new racing licenses submitted as part of a joint project by Keeneland and Churchill Down, which includes the proposed quarter horse track in Corbin, it appears there may be some movement.
According to Gene McLean at “The Pressbox” multiple sources within the commission have confirmed that the commission may begin reviewing the applications with the goal of taking official action by the end of the year.
According to “The Pressbox,” four unspecified members of the racing commission, along with Chairman Franklin S. King, will serve on a committee to review the applications and make a final recommendation to the committee.
“It is my understanding that this is part of the next step,” said Corbin Industrial Development Director Bruce Carpenter. “I feel positive it is still moving forward.”
Mayor Willard McBurney, the racing commission and Keeneland have not returned calls seeking comment.
The track in Corbin, to be known as Cumberland Run, is to be constructed on 149 acres of property off of the Corbin bypass between Allison and Buchanan Blvd.
Ground was to have been broken in fall 2014, with the goal of opening the facility in 2016.
However, numerous issues, including an infestation of the wooded area of the property, has delayed construction.
Following a meeting of the Corbin Planning and Zoning Commission in October 2017, during which the property was rezoned to public use, Vince Gabbert, vice president and chief operating officer of Keeneland, said securing the racing license is the last remaining hurdle.
“As soon as we have that in hand, we will be ready to move forward,” Gabbert said.
Keeneland had been working to purchase the required racing license from Appalachian Racing, Inc., the owner of the defunct harness racing track in Floyd County.
At the time the racing commission had issued racing licenses to facilities across the state.
However, it was discovered that there was a ninth license, which was unissued.
Upon learning of this, Keeneland officials applied for the available license.
With Floyd County potentially liable for the bond debt, a lawsuit was filed to force the company to purchase that license.
In July 2017, the $2.2 million in outstanding bonds were paid off, rendering the lawsuit moot.
The Floyd County license was returned to the racing commission.
Keeneland joined forces with Churchill Downs in September 2017 in the Corbin project and a second racing facility in Oak Grove in Christian County near Fort Campbell.
However, hours after the announcement of the joint venture, King and Vice Chairman of the Racing Commission John Roach, announced they had no plans to consider new applications for the vacant racing licenses.
Gabbert said previously that once construction begins, the plan is to have the facility ready and open for business within 14 months.
Crews were active at the site in the spring clearing off brush.
The project includes a 1,723-foot straight racing track, along with barn facilities an entertainment center and grandstand. In addition, the property has six out parcels for commercial development and property allocated for a hotel/motel facility.
Gabbert said the goal remains to host 10-12 days of racing throughout the summer.
The facility would include 250 “historical racing machines.”
The slot style gaming machines have been the subject of much scrutiny, and an ongoing court case. Opponents claim they are little more than run-of-the-mill casino-style slot machines that are illegal in Kentucky. Supporters say the results the machines produce are based on past races and that wagering on them is considered “pari-mutuel,” just like normal horse racing. Essentially, bettors are betting against other bettors, not against the facility housing the machines.
The machines are currently allowed at tracks in the state with active horse racing and track operators say they serve a vital role in allowing race purses to be higher.