Three Churchill Downs Inc. Casinos Reopen Over Weekend, Two More Slated This Week

Posted on: June 15, 2020, 12:29h. 

Last updated on: June 15, 2020, 09:48h.

This weekend was a busy one for Churchill Downs Inc. The Louisville-based gaming company celebrated the reopening of three of its casinos, and it expects two more to open in the week ahead.

Churchill Downs reopenings
Guests play slot machines at Calder Casino in 2017. The Miami Gardens, Fla., casino, which reopened on Friday, is one of five owned by Churchill Downs Inc. that has reopened since last month. (Image: Calder Casino/Wikipedia)

Friday marked the reopening of the Calder Casino in Miami Gardens, Fla., and the Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin in Farmington, Penn. The following day, Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots reopened in New Orleans. Only the slots reopened at Fair Grounds as the track’s meet concluded on March 21, eight days ahead of schedule, because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Those came just days after the company got approval from Kentucky to reopen Derby City Gaming, its instant racing gaming venue in Louisville.

Last month, Harlow’s Casino Resort and Spa in Greenville, Miss., and the Riverwalk Casino Hotel in Vicksburg, Miss., reopened.

We are grateful to our teams who have ensured smooth, safe, and successful reopenings over the past month, and to our returning guests, who have enthusiastically adapted to new protocols,” said Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs Inc., in a statement.

This Friday, the company expects to reopen the Ocean Downs Casino in Berlin, Md., and Miami Valley Gaming, a Lebanon, Ohio harness track racino joint venture with Delaware North. That would make seven of the company’s 10 casinos or racinos open to the public in some capacity.

Company Outlines COVID-19 Guidelines

In addition to state and local guidelines, Churchill Downs has outlined the steps its staff is taking at each of its gaming properties to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The company’s practices include more frequent sanitizing of such high-touch surfaces as gaming equipment, doors, elevators, and handrails; required temperature measurements of anyone entering the facility; installing plexiglass dividers to further protect guests; and an increase in sanitizing stations across the gaming floors.

These protocols will also be implemented at the company’s other casinos when they reopen. That includes the Oxford Casino Hotel in Oxford, Maine; Presque Isle Downs and Casino in Erie, Penn.; and the Rivers Des Plaines Casino in Des Plaines, Ill.

Churchill Downs Wants Fans Back at the Track

In addition to the reopenings at the company’s gaming venues, Churchill Downs is seeing increased betting at its namesake track and flagship property. Even without fans allowed in the grandstand, Churchill Downs has routinely seen handles more than double since it started its spring meet on May 16. That’s with most bettors only able to make wagers through online services, such as the company’s own and BetAmerica platforms.

Churchill’s meet is set to end in two weeks, but the track will race again in September. In addition to its normal September meet, the track also acquired racing dates for the first week of the month to run the rescheduled Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby, on Sept. 4 and 5, respectively.

Both days, when held on their traditional May dates, draw more than 100,000 people to the historic track. With less than 90 days until the races, it’s still uncertain if the track will be allowed to welcome fans, and if so, at what capacity.

At his COVID-19 briefing last Thursday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said his office received a plan from Churchill Downs to allow fans to attend races. But the governor said he did not believe that was related to the Derby.

Last weekend, the state gave the track permission to allow owners to watch their horses race in person. The guidelines limit attendance to two people per horse, with one required to hold a state owner’s license. Masks are required, and they must depart once their race ends.