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Archive for Saturday, September 12, 2009

Woodlands may drop plans to resume racing

September 12, 2009

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— The top official at a horse- and dog-racing park in Kansas City, Kan., told state regulators Friday that he’ll convert the property to another use if legislators don’t give track owners more revenues from slot machines next year.

Howard Grace, president of The Woodlands’ operating company, also said he would be forced to abandon racing earlier if he and other industry officials can’t agree on a proposal for the Legislature to consider when it reconvenes in January.

The state Racing and Commission decided Friday to give the owners of The Woodlands, Wichita Greyhound Park and Camptown Greyhound Park, outside Pittsburg, another 10 months to take steps to reopen their businesses before they face losing their licenses. The deadline would fall a month after legislators adjourn their 2010 session.

A 2007 law authorized racetrack slots, but the tracks’ share of revenues is capped at 40 percent, and operators say it’s not enough to make slots profitable. Track owners have been unable to agree on contracts with the Kansas Lottery, which owns the rights to the new gambling under the law.

“If I can’t make it work, I’m going to find an alternate use for the property,” Grace told the commission. “I’m at the end of my rope.”

The Woodlands, with separate dog and horse tracks, closed last year, and Camptown has been shuttered since 2000. Both are allowed to have slots because local voters approved them.

Wichita Greyhound Park closed in 2007 after local voters rejected slot machines. But legislators could allow another vote.

The commission moved last year to revoke the tracks’ licenses because they weren’t running races, but it has since delayed the action several times.

Kevin Allis, an attorney for the firm owning both the Wichita and Camptown parks, said it is optimistic about getting the slots law changed.

“We’re confident about 2010 — it’s going to happen,” Allis said.

Under the law, the state is guaranteed at least 40 percent of slots revenues. Another 14 percent is set aside for racing prizes, split evenly between horses and dogs.

This year, the tracks and horse and dog groups backed a bill to allow the owners to keep up to 58 percent of the revenues, with the state’s minimum share cut to 22 percent. It never came up for a vote.

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