Churchill Downs takes historical horse racing to Malta for first operation outside the US

HHR is coming to Europe.
HHR is coming to Europe.

The brand has entered a deal with the Malta National Lottery.

Malta.- Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) and International Game Technology (IGT) have entered into a deal with the Malta National Lottery. They will provide historical horse racing (HHR) games outside of the US for the first time at Malta National Lottery outlets.

An initial launch will take place at IZIBINGO in Dolmen, a new gaming and entertainment centre with a renovated 312-seater bingo hall and sportsbook, where IGT will provide technology while CDI subsidiary Exacta Services will power the HHR gaming floor with its Exacta Connect system for 120 HHR terminals. Other Malta National Lottery venues will be added after the initial launch, providing access to over 80 IGT HHR games, including Cleopatra Gold, Wolf Run Gold and Stinkin’ Rich Skunks Gone Wild!

IZIBINGO opened yesterday (Thursday). Malta National Lottery CEO Johann Schembri said that HHR systems would go live at more venues in a matter of weeks. “This first installation at IZIBINGO and other sites within our lottery network in the coming weeks is the result of extensive efforts and represents a significant step in our mission to innovate the operations of the National Lottery,” he said.

“Our collaboration with Exacta and IGT, two of the world’s leading technology providers in this market, enables us to establish the ideal showcase for this offering, as we endeavour to expand this concept internationally.”

Exacta president Jeff Lind said; “The flexibility of our Exacta Connect system in adapting to different markets and legislative environments, coupled with the thrill of HHR gaming, continues to drive this growth,” he added.

IZIBINGO was opened by Silvio Schembri, Malta’s minister for the economy, enterprise, and strategic projects. He said: “This investment is more than just a new facility. It represents a groundbreaking concept that brings a wide array of gaming entertainment products under one roof. IZIBINGO will create jobs within the land-based gaming industry and strengthen IZI Group’s presence, now employing 550 people full-time. This project underscores Malta’s potential to become a showcase for innovative gaming products with prospects for international expansion.” 

An expansion of HHR gaming?

HHR machines are designed to look like traditional slot machines, but they allow players to place bets on horse races that have already happened, often going back to the 1990s, with no details about the identity of the jockey or the horse. Some games also feature slot-like elements.

Their arrival in Malta could mark the start of a wider expansion of HHR gaming outside of the US, but it remains to be seen how popular the format will be. HHR machines were developed as a kind of loophole option to provide extra revenue for racetracks in US states that allow horseracing betting but where slots are illegal. They may not hold such massive appeal in markets where traditional slots are easily accessible.

Historical horse racing is not without controversy in the US either. Minnesota is considering a ban, while Idaho banned the machines in 2015. Even Churchill Downs’ native Kentucky banned HHR machines at one point, but it lifted the ban in 2021 to allow them at racetracks.

Last month, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) published a manual outlining norms for the reporting of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) proceedings via its Licensee Portal. The guidance is intended to make licensees’ monthly ADR reports more straightforward.

Under Directive 5 2018 of Malta’s ADR submission policy, all B2C licensees must inform the Maltese regulator about every dispute referred to ADR and how the disputes are resolved. The new guidelines apply with immediate effect, with operators expected to submit their first reports by June 20 documenting all disputes that occurred in May.

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IZIBINGO Malta National Lottery sports betting