Churchill Downs Inc. has moved its online wagering operations from Silicon Valley to its Kentucky hometown, where the Kentucky Derby is run at its namesake racetrack.
A decade ago, when the company was building its TwinSpires online wagering business, the operations were based in California to tap into its high-tech prowess. Now the company is confident it can fill those high-tech skills in Louisville, its CEO Bill Carstanjen said Tuesday.
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"When we thought the skill sets were strong enough here in the state where we could duplicate all of those skills, that's when we really wanted to do it," he said. "Because we always liked the idea of the strategists of the business ... being located here with the rest of us."
TwinSpires has become a lucrative part of the Louisville-based racing and gambling company as a platform for mobile wagering on thoroughbred, harness and quarter horse races.
In 2016, $1.1 billion was wagered through TwinSpires, amounting to 10 percent of total betting on U.S. races, the company said.
"Technology, specifically mobile, is the equine industry's fastest-growing sector," Carstanjen said.
TwinSpires employs more than 200 people, altogether. That includes operations that will continue in Lexington, Kentucky. It plans to add 25 more Louisville employees. The parent company said it is investing $2.2 million to expand its Louisville offices to house TwinSpires headquarters.
No state incentives were used to lure those headquarters to Kentucky, Carstanjen said. Churchill executives cited efforts to make Louisville a tech hub as a key factor for the relocation.
"Ten years ago, it was really a challenge for us to imagine building this business in Kentucky, when it seemed that so many of the resources and types of skills we needed were found more easily in California," Carstanjen said. "Frankly, we didn't think we could do it here."
Gov. Matt Bevin, who toured the headquarters, said the TwinSpires relocation reflects his goal of making the bluegrass state "a net attractor of young talent, smart talent."
"It's a compliment to us ... to this community, to the commonwealth of Kentucky that it's a place where you can bring high-tech jobs," he said.