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Kentucky Downs eyes Warren County for expansion

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission voted Tuesday to approve a request from Franklin’s Kentucky Downs to expand its licensed premises to an extension facility in Bowling Green.

Kentucky Downs’ request has been in the works since last fall, but the action came just days after both houses of the Kentucky General Assembly passed legislation aimed at legalizing the slot machine-like Historical Horse Racing machines that have fueled the explosive growth of Kentucky Downs.

Largely because of the HHR machines, betting on racing at Kentucky Downs increased from $20 million in 2010 to nearly $800 million in 2018.

Now a team headed by Ron Winchell of Lexington’s Winchell Thoroughbreds and former Nevada casino executive Marc Falcone that purchased Kentucky Downs in 2018 appears ready to raise the ante on its investment in HHR machines.

They have already grown in Franklin, announcing in 2019 a $25 million renovation and expansion of the venue that opened in 1990 as Dueling Grounds Race Course.

Nearly complete, the expansion adds 13,000 square feet of gambling space and increases the number of HHR terminals to 1,200 – nearly double the previous number. Plans also include new restaurants and a hotel.