Derby City Gaming welcomes customers back with strict COVID-19 restrictions


Under a plan approved by the state, Derby City Gaming is back open to the public at one-third its normal capacity.

“We are so prone to try and drive volume and drive revenue. We can’t do that right now,” Derby City Gaming President Tim Bryant said. “We’ve got to be responsible. Part of the plan we gave the governor is we’re going to be very cautious at how we market and promote. We’re not going to have large scale promotions that draw in a large crowd because we simply can’t handle it At 33% occupancy.”

Closed since March due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the casino-like venue held a soft opening Monday afternoon for invited guests. Inside, the beeping, clinking, ringing slot-like machines were back at work, turning historical horse races, or instant racing, into money-making games of chance.

Customers are required to pass a temperature check before entering the parking lot. Anyone with a temperature over 100 degrees are turned away.

Inside, signs are posted as a reminder that the best bet for gamers is to keep their distance from others.

A cleaning team is also patrolling the floor of Derby City Gaming throughout the day to disinfect chairs and machines.

“We’re practicing strict 6 feet social distancing,” Bryant said, “and you’ll see on the gaming floor that we’ve reconfigured or turned off machines to ensure that as guests play, they are 6 feet apart.”

Customers are encouraged to wear masks.

At the soft opening, customers were given a bag containing masks, hand sanitizer and a stylus to push buttons without using a finger.

Both the state and horse racing have a stake in the success of instant racing venues; Derby City Gaming and three other locations in Kentucky saw wagering top $2 billion in the last fiscal year.

When the facilities closed in March because of COVID-19, they were on pace to break that record.

“Before they shut down, they had a handle of $2 billion,” Steve Bittenbender of said. “And that brought in about $10 or $11 million in general fund revenue in about $13 to $14 million in Thoroughbred Development Fund Revenue.”

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