Churchill Downs buys Presque Isle Downs

Churchill Downs buys Presque Isle Downs


The Home of the Kentucky Derby buy into PA’s new online gambling industry


Churchill Downs, home to the longest-running continuous sporting event in the United States and the Kentucky Derby, recently bought a Pennsylvania-based casino. This wily move gives this bastion of US horse racing a potentially lucrative entry point into the state’s newly legalized online gambling industry. The 2017  expansion law has made online poker, casino games, sports betting and several other online gambling platforms 100% legal in the state.

The purchase of Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie by Churchill Downs is just the latest in what seems to be a trend of US-based racecourses investing in PA Online Casinos. In fact, Churchill Downs is following in the footsteps of Penn National, who now own Meadows Racetrack and Casino, and Boyd Gaming, who bought Valley Forge Casino.

The purchase of Presque Isle is subject to final approval by the PA Gaming Control Board, who have overseen proceedings up to this point. The sale is expected to be finalized in the final quarter of 2018.



Before we go any further, perhaps a bit context about Churchill Downs may be needed for those not 100% au fait horse racing in the US.


Kentucky has always been the unofficial capital of horse racing and the sport's origins in the state date back to 1789 when the very first horseracing track was laid in Lexington. About 100 years later, Churchill Downs hosted its first official race and became known across the world as the “Home of the Kentucky Derby”.


Fast forward to 2018 and Churchill Downs Racetrack, now owned and operated by Churchill Downs Incorporated, holds a 143-year-old record for the “longest running, continuous sporting event in the United States” – the Kentucky Derby. Known as the most exciting two minutes in sports, the Kentucky Derby has grown from 10,000 spectators in its first years to today’s recording setting crowds of over 170,000.



Churchill Down’s purchase of Erie-based Presque Isle Downs & Casino is not their first investment or partnership with an online entity. For a while now they have already offered online horse betting via and are also the proud owners of several racetracks and casinos across a number of states.


When asked about their purchase of Presque Isle, Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs International, said:

“Presque Isle will give us a foothold in Pennsylvania, which has recently passed legislation authorizing real money online gaming.”

In fact, it seems as if CDI is on a bit of roll when it to its recent investments with them recently announcing that they are also purchasing Lady Luck Casino in Vicksburg, Miss. Both Presque Isle Downs & Casino and Lady Luck Casino are owned by Eldorado Resorts, Inc.



Presque Isle was one of the very first online casinos in PA to open their doors once

online casinos and gambling were legalized in the state back in 2007. In terms of revenue, Presque Isle is considered one of PA’s smaller online casinos. However, most experts and punters will agree that it has the potential to become one of the biggest online casinos in the state of PA. Today they offer players:

  • More than 1,600 slots
  • Over 32 different table games
  • A sophisticated poker room and
  • Thoroughbred racing, where punters can bet on the outcomes of more than 100 live races every year



Based on comments by their CEO and their recent purchases, it definitely seems as if online casinos are a major part of Churchill Downs strategy going forward. Its experience in offering online horse betting through industry giants TwinSpires shows that this is part of their long-term thinking and not just a reactionary move.


According to

“CDI’s investment in online wagering technology and customer support systems also positions the company to take advantage of additional Internet gaming opportunities, such as online poker, as those activities are authorized at the state or federal level”.


Legalized in 2017, Sports Betting looks like the next phase of CDI’s long-term plan. And it makes a lot of sense. Many PA tracks are foaming at the mouth to get a bite of the single-game wagering pie. However, this is 100% dependent on the Supreme Court of the US overruling the federal ban in the New Jersey sports betting case.


It would be a massive fail if CDI failed to offer sports wagering through Presque Isle when the state eventually launches it, most probably in 2019.




Churchill Downs are set to take their fully expanded offering into the digital world sooner rather than later. Watch this space for CDI’s latest moves with Pennsylvania online casinos. 

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Rich Migliorisi

Rich is the Managing Editor at He started his career as a video editor and poker player but decided to also pursue sports writing. In 2013, Rich was nominated by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association for Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year. He worked at MLB Advanced Media as a Senior Site Manager for and before joining BonusSeeker.

MLB, NHL, The Fantasy Fix, Video Editor, Poker Player

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