Churchill Downs Makes Veteran Executive Ben Murr Permanent President of TwinSpires

Posted on: January 16, 2022, 09:15h. 

Last updated on: January 17, 2022, 10:35h.

Churchill Downs Inc. on Friday announced that Ben Murr would take over as the new president of TwinSpires and online gaming.

Ben Murr Churchill Downs
Ben Murr, who has served as the CTO for Churchill Downs Inc., was officially named Friday as the company’s new president of TwinSpires and Online Gaming. (Image: Churchill Downs Inc.)

Murr, a longtime executive with the Louisville-based gaming company, became TwinSpires’ interim leader after Ian Williams left to join Wynn Interactive in October. Williams became president of Wynn Interactive in November, after joining the Las Vegas company to serve as its COO.

For more than nine years, Murr served as Churchill Downs Inc.’s senior vice president and CTO. Before that, he previously served as the president of CDI’s United Tote division and as Churchill’s CIO.

I’ve been heavily involved with TwinSpires and our Online Gaming operations throughout my tenure at CDI,” Murr said in a release. “I am passionate about these businesses and believe strongly in their future growth potential and strategic importance for CDI.”

He’ll retain the senior vice president title, according to the Churchill Downs announcement. However, the company said it will look to find a new CTO, who would also serve as a senior vice president, in the near future.

Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said in the release that Murr has helped fuel growth across the company’s operations.

“He has been a key player throughout the extensive changes in our Company over the last 14 years and will continue to move our TwinSpires and Online businesses forward,” Carstanjen said.

Churchill Downs Keeping TwinSpires

TwinSpires serves as the brand name for Churchill Downs Inc.’s advance deposit wagering (ADW) platform for pari-mutuel betting. The name is a nod to the iconic feature of the company’s namesake racetrack in Louisville. The online wagering platform for thoroughbred, quarter horse, and harness racing is available in nearly 40 states.

A year ago, Churchill Downs announced it would rebrand its BetAmerica sportsbook and iGaming platforms under the TwinSpires name. It currently offers sports betting in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland (retail only), Michigan, Mississippi (retail only), New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. It’s also expected to launch sports betting in Louisiana. Online casino games are currently available in Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Last month, Bloomberg reported that Churchill Downs was considering a sale of TwinSpires, with an estimated valuation of $1.5 billion. However, two weeks later, Horse Racing Nation reported that would not happen, as Murr notified employees after the stock market opened on Dec. 17.

The Bloomberg report came after Churchill Downs Inc. reached agreements to sell Arlington Park in Illinois to the Chicago Bears and 115 acres of land around Calder Casino in Florida to a logistics company. Churchill Downs will receive about $490 million after the deals close.

Top Horse Racing ADW

TwinSpires typically ranks as the country’s top ADW horse racing platform. According to data from the Oregon Racing Commission, which has tracked data since 2013, TwinSpires has been the No. 1 platform based on handle every year except for 2020. Last year, Flutter-owned TVG eclipsed it by less than $9.5 million. In 2020, TVG took in $2.46 billion in bets, compared to $2.45 billion.

The figures for 2021 are not yet complete. However, through the first three quarters, TwinSpires has reclaimed the top spot, but by a narrow margin. Its $1.91 billion handle is about $51.6 million more than TVG.

Churchill Downs has not had the same amount of success in sports betting. In that realm, it competes with operators like DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and Caesars Sportsbook.

Not all states report handle and revenue totals by operator. Of those that do, TwinSpires typically ranks at the lower end of sportsbooks in those states.

In Arizona, TwinSpires took in $1.6 million of the $486.1 million in wagers made in October. TwinSpires accepted about $2.7 million of the $463 million in bets made in Indiana in December. And for the first five months of the 2022 fiscal year, TwinSpires has reported a handle of $32.9 million in Pennsylvania, where $2.77 billion has been wagered.