Ellis Park ushers in KY’s first-in-America payoff to the penny

July 14, 2022

HENDERSON, Ky. — In a major win for horseplayers, Ellis Park on Friday will become the first track in the country to pay out to the penny — rather than the traditional rounding down to the nearest dime — on dollar payoffs.

The result will be more money returned to bettors. Kentucky’s General Assembly last spring passed legislation requiring that so-called “breakage” be paid to the penny, with that provision going into effect with Ellis Park’s Friday card.

The legislation was sponsored in the Kentucky House by Rep. Adam Koenig of Erlanger and Rep. Al Gentry of Louisville and shepherded through the Kentucky Senate by Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer. The cause of returning breakage to the bettors long has been championed by the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation executive director Patrick Cummings and TIF founder Craig Bernick, a prominent horse owner and president of Glen Hill Farm in Florida. In Koenig, they found a lawmaker equally as passionate about virtually eliminating breakage.

“This is a welcome and long overdue shift in pari-mutuel wagering to pay bettors the entirety of their duly deserved winnings,” Cummings said in a TIF release. “Kentucky is leading the way, and if a horseplayer wants to enjoy the entirety of a winning dividend, they should be betting on races run in Kentucky.”

Koenig will be at Ellis Park to witness the first time bettors will be paid rounding down to the penny.

“I’m excited,” he said. “Most importantly, it takes care of the horseplayers in a way that no one has ever seen before. It’s either going to become a standard throughout the industry or it’s going to be an enormous plus for Kentucky racing. You read stories about how big players get additional rebates. Well, now the little players are going to get additional rebates.”

Koenig says he plans to bet $2 to show on every horse in the first race Friday.

“That way I’ll cash three tickets,” he said. “I think I’m going to do it on my (online) account, so I can snap a photo and have it forever.”

To show the difference breakage makes, TIF provides this example: Previously, if the “unbroken” return on a show bet was $1.4854928, the return for every $1 unit was rounded down to $1.40. Where before such a $2 bet would return $2.80, now it would pay $2.96 on a Kentucky race.

“We’ve reviewed and tested penny breakage for a Friday start and we’re set to go,” said Ellis Park General Manager Jeff Inman. “We’re very pleased that Rep. Koenig will be present to witness the start. We know the veteran horseplayers will be thrilled with the change, and we’re curious how the casual bettor will react.”

The virtual elimination of breakage was part of HB 607 that also standardized the excise tax on every pari-mutuel wager placed in the state and also made claiming races eligible for purse supplements paid out to registered Kentucky-bred horses through the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund.

In the past, Kentucky tracks and their horsemen split the on-track breakage, while off-track and online bet-takers kept the money. The Thoroughbred Idea Foundation estimates that $35 million over the last five years was collected and retained as breakage from Kentucky races.

Ellis Park maiden, allowance purses increase $10K

Ellis Park has increased purses for registered Kentucky-breds by $10,000 for every maiden and allowance race for the remainder of the meet.

Horses eligible for the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund (KTDF) purse supplements now will compete for $60,000 in non-claiming maiden races, with allowance purses starting at $61,000. The increases come from the transfer of $1 million in KTDF generated at Kentucky Downs into Ellis Park’s purse account. That’s on top of the $2.2 million committed earlier in purse money and KTDF by Kentucky Downs in agreements with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s KTDF advisory committee and Ellis Park’s horsemen’s representative, the Kentucky HBPA.

Registered Kentucky-breds must be born in the state and sired by Kentucky stallions. Starting this month, claiming races in Kentucky are eligible for KTDF supplements for the first time.

“It’s gratifying to see the tracks working together on things such as purses and racing dates to make the Kentucky circuit the strongest in America, with all participants committed to keeping purse levels high all year long in the commonwealth,” said Ellis Park racing secretary Dan Bork, adding of Kentucky Downs co-managing partner Ron Winchell, a prominent horse owner and breeder, “Hats off to Mr. Winchell. He’s a big-time supporter of Kentucky racing, not just his own track, and Ellis Park is a prime example. Such unprecedented arrangements between racetracks also don’t happen without lawmakers such as Senator Damon Thayer and Speaker David Osborne. They all understand how vital purse levels are for the health of the industry. Everyone is stepping up.”

Coming up

Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen leads all trainers with three wins heading into the second weekend of Ellis Park’s meet. Brian Hernandez Jr. and Gerardo Corrales lead the jockey standings with three victories apiece, while Doubledown Stables tops all owners with two wins.

Saturday marks the return of the popular wiener dog races, with five qualifying heats staged between 11 a.m. Central and noon. The top two finishers in each heat will advance to the Aug. 27 final to crown Ellis Park’s top dog.

Sunday’s feature is the $75,000 Ellis Park Turf Stakes presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, with RUNHAPPY Dollar Day featuring $1 hotdogs and $2 beer.

Ellis Park Press Release

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