G2E: Churchill Downs' CEO discusses Kentucky Derby's 150th anniversary

October 11, 2023

William Carstanjen delved into the history of horseracing and why he's so proud of its remaining relevance in modern day.

This week at G2E, Gaming America was in attendance at William Carstanjen's, CEO of Churchill Downs', conference, where he discussed the rising popularity of betting on horseracing.

The big lead-up to this year's Kentucky Derby 150th anniversary and the recent cyber attacks that occurred at MGM Resorts and Caesars.

As part of the 150th anniversary of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs aims to provide something special for punters. Therefore, it will be rebuilding the whole facility in a $200m renovation project that will be completed just in time for the Derby.

Carstanjen stated how the hype is real, “I've never seen such demand during my 18 years in the company. I've never seen anything close to the demand now when you look at the fact that there has been betting on horses for so long.”

When detailing the history behind Churchill Downs, Carstanjen said, “From our perspective, the history of horseracing was the only legal form of gambling in the United States for most of the history of the country.

"As you moved into the seventies and the eighties and the nineties, you saw the lotteries, then brick-and-mortar gaming, now online gaming. Those are all things that have impacted horse racing over time.”

He also revealed his theory behind the popularity of horseracing in the US, “I think because the folks that founded our country came with horses and were immediately racing them, there were always exceptions for horseracing. 

The Churchill Downs CEO continued, “So our sport has had to be resilient, had to change with the times, had to take what we've learned from horseracing and from our experiences and apply them to new things available.

"That's part of the history and the evolution of our company. And not only is the event, the Kentucky Derby, 150 years old, but our company is 150 years old.”

Meanwhile, when asked his opinion on the recent cyber attacks at MGM Resorts and Caesars, Carstanjen stated, “We saw attacks a number of years ago and that got folded into our DNA of being very concerned and focused on it. But where we saw some of the other things we've seen publicly in the industry, absolutely we would revisit everything.

He expanded, “Particularly these increasingly effective social engineering attacks where they are (hackers) able to worm their way through a human into the system. Those have gotten even more sophisticated than they have been and I think it's a challenge for everybody in the industry.”


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