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IGT and Churchill Downs expand HHR outside US with Malta National Lottery

| By Robert Fletcher
International Game Technology (IGT) and Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) have agreed a deal for the Malta National Lottery to become the first operator outside of the US to offer historical horse racing (HHR) games.
IGT Churchill Downs Historical Horse Racing

Under the initial deal, IGT will provide technology to the first Malta National Lottery HHR venue, IZIBINGO. Exacta Services, a subsidiary of Churchill Downs, will power the HHR gaming floor with its Exacta Connect system solution. 

HHR machines allow players to wager on horse racing event that have already taken place. Content on these devices date back to the early 1990s, with any information about each race, such as the identity of the jockey or horse, removed.

These machines resemble transitional slot machines, with some games featuring some sort of slot element.

This arrangement will then expand, with IGT and Exacta powering HHR at other National Lottery venues across Malta. Previously, the IGT and CDI offering has been limited the US.

National Lottery customers will have access to more than 80 IGT HHR games. Titles include Cleopatra Gold, Wolf Run Gold and Stinkin’ Rich Skunks Gone Wild!. 

Scope for further expansion for IGT and Churchill Downs?

The deal is an an “exciting” first step in the company’s international expansion efforts according to Exacta president Jeff Lind. 

“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.

To IGT’s COO for gaming Nick Khin, the deal is “an exciting growth milestone”.

“It is testament to the quality and global relevance of our HHR content and hardware portfolio.”

The first HHR systems should be live within the next few weeks, according to National Lottery CEO Johann Schembri.

“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. 

“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.”

IZIBINGO is due to open its doors to customers for the first time today (4 July). 

Uncertainty remains over HHR in US

The decision to look outside the US may coincide with growing uncertainty over the future of HHR in some states.

Earlier this year, Minnesota passed a bill banning all forms of HHR machines in the state. This means both Canterbury Park and Running Aces can no longer offer HHR services to customers.

Idaho has also had a ban in place since 2015. This came after machines were installed at Les Bois Park, Greyhound Park and the Double Down Bar & Grill in Idaho Falls. Legislators enacted a ban after saying they were misled about the nature of the games

The then-governor, Butch Otter, vetoed the ban but it eventually came into effect when Coeur d’Alene tribe, which operates a casino that competes with the racetracks, successfully sued against the veto. A ballot initiative to re-legalise HHR machines was rejected in 2018.

Kentucky previously banned HHR machines, but this was partly rescinded in 2021 to only permit machines at racetracks.

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