Other casinos may feel competition from horse track slots

Shelbyville, Indiana – Now that casinos are up and running at Indiana’s two horse tracks, officials are waiting to see how long it takes for the state’s other casinos to feel the pinch from the new competition.

„Those are good quality operations up there,“ said Jeff Michie, assistant general manager of Belterra Casino in Switzerland County. „It’s got to hurt us.“

Belterra called off a proposed USD 45 million expansion after the Indiana General Assembly approved slots at Indiana Downs in Shelbyville and Hoosier Park in Anderson. Casinos at both tracks opened this month.

Belterra draws 16 percent of its revenue from the Indianapolis market, and casino representatives believe many of those customers will now visit the horse tracks instead.

For 55-year-old Duane Mathews of Indianapolis, a trip to Shelbyville is an hour closer than a drive to Argosy Casino in Lawrenceburg, where he formerly was a regular. That makes gas prices a factor.

„With the drive to Argosy, you start out USD 35 to USD 40 behind before you even get started gambling,“ he said. „It’s a very easy decision.“

Ernest Yelton, executive director of the Indiana Gaming Commission, said he expects those who will feel the competition most will be the French Lick Resort Casino in Orange County and the three riverboats in southeastern Indiana – Argosy, Belterra and Grand Victoria.

Yelton expects Caesars in Harrison County to be affected to a lesser degree. Casino Aztar in Evansville may not be affected at all and the casinos on Lake Michigan may barely feel the impact.

„It’s a wait-and-see,“ Yelton said. „It will take … time to understand what’s really happening.“

Michie said he hopes that customers eventually will return to Belterra for a more rounded resort experience including the spa, golf course and hotel.

„For people looking to get away, they’re still going to choose us or Grand Victoria or Caesars, or wherever they like to stay and play,“ he said.

However, both horse tracks plan expansions that include hotels.