EVANSVILLE —The Indiana Downs off-track betting site in Evansville will be closing June 10 because of recent changes at Ellis Park and the citywide smoking ban, company officials said.
"With the environment that we're currently in," said Jonathan Schuster, general manager of parent company Indianapolis Downs LLC, "we're not making any money there."
The Evansville off-track betting site, which opened in 2003, is one of three facilities operated by the company. It employs about 50 people, facility manager Jim Bretz said.
"The employees are definitely disappointed that we're closing" said Bretz. "I'd also say a lot our customers that have been loyal to us and really like our OTB ... they're disappointed that they'll either have to seek an alternative now or go out of town ..."
Indianapolis Downs — which has a track in Shelbyville and another off-track betting site in Clarksville — is currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Schuster said the bankruptcy has nothing to do with off-track betting facility's closure. If it did, he said, the company would have closed it when it filed for bankruptcy last April.
Schuster said the first factor was Ellis Park changing its months of operation.
For the past two years, the Henderson, Ky., park on the north side of the Ohio River was closed half the year. But starting in January, officials decided to keep it open year-round.
"We were saving money — mostly in utilities," said Ellis Park director of operations Bob Jackson, speaking about the 2009 decision to operate from April through October. "But we were not generating purse money (for horsemen)."
Schuster said in the first three months of 2012, revenue at Evansville OTB was down about a third compared to 2011.
Schuster also cited the city's smoking ban, from which he sought — but was not granted — an exemption. The ban took effect April 1 and since then, Schuster said, the facility's revenue decreased 17 percent compared to the same period last year.
"That is attributable to the time frame of the smoking ban and no other change in business," he said.
Schuster said that even before these two factors came into play, the business wasn't greatly profitable.
"Wanting to believe that it's going to go back to those levels or surpass them just doesn't seem to be a logical business decision to us," he said.
The site will be open for some upcoming events, including the Preakness Stakes on May 19 and the Belmont Stakes on June 9.
"And then we will be open the next day," said Bretz, "my guess is to make sure we cash tickets for people who come to us on that Saturday."
Jackson said Ellis Park should pick up some extra business after that.
"I'm not privy to what their handle numbers are," he said "so to what volume of business, I don't know."