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Kentucky Update

by ivan

Time for a look at events in the “Horse Capital of the World.”   Our struggling horse track that “needs casinos” is planning a $37 million expansion. The expansion calls for 36 additional luxury suites, 1800 more seats next to the Jockey Club Suites, the building of a seven story Starting Gate Suites which will start in January 2017, pause for the Spring Meet (The Derby) and resume afterward. The new tower will add interior dining rooms, 110 third floor grandstand seats, and three suites that will accommodate 1,140 patrons EACH , with an interior bar and tiered outside seating at the starting line. Tickets for 2017 are on sale, as are tickets for the 2018 opening of the Starting Gate Suites, assuming there are no delays. With a tongue-in-cheek twinkle, President of the track Kevin Flannery said, “This sweeping new addition will be a terrific benefit to our facility on many levels. This is a time of much hand-wringing in Kentucky. Will Trump really crack down on illegal immigration? One of the dirty little secrets of the lovely tracks and the beautiful horse farms is that they couldn’t operate without the cheap labor provided by immigrants, some legal, some not. Of special concern are those who come as guest workers. The bill that will keep the government operating through April failed to include the visa exemption for H2B workers that allows them to return for seasonal work. As a result there could be a shortage of exercise riders, hot walkers and grooms. This will be one of many tests to see if Washington will go on operating as usual. The horse farm owners moan that they can’t pay what U.S. workers demand. On top of these problems, the states that add new gambling are only reaping a revenue boost for only one to two years, and then revenues begin to sink below the level before the new gambling. I would suggest you look elsewhere for leadership on solving problems. Here in Kentucky we lead in whining when we can’t have illegal workers.   Janet Patton, “Churchill Downs plans $37 million expansion,” Lexington Herald Leader, p. 7A, November 16, 2016. Tom Eblen, “Will Trump’s immigration policies cause labor shortagein Kentucky horse industry,” Lexington Herald-Leader, p. 1C, December 11, 2016.

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