With Handle Down, Lone Star Considers Purse Cut
by Tim Price
Date Posted: 5/22/2003 11:01:25 AM

With business lagging behind by about 7% compared with last year, officials at Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie are contemplating a purse cut as the racetrack nears the midway point of its 70-date racing season.

According to a report in the May 22 Fort Worth Star-Telegram, it would be first time in track history that purses required adjustment during a meet.

"It's the last thing we're considering doing," said Jeff Greco, general manager at Lone Star. "But our business is softer than we anticipated. This is something we'll revisit next week."

Lone Star pays about $235,000 per day in purses. Greco did not give a figure for a possible purse cut. Two sources said it could be up to 10%.

Even though Lone Star registered its best-ever wagering total on the simulcast of the May 3 Kentucky Derby, wagering at the track has failed to rally from the 7% deficit it recorded through simulcast wagering in the three months that preceded the start of the live season.

"With handle being down the way it has been, it looks like a purse cut is inevitable," said Tommy Azopardi, executive director of the Texas Horsemen's Partnership that represents owners and trainers at Texas racetracks. "Hopefully it won't come to that. They have a few things they are working on."

Greco told Azopardi Lone Star is waiting to see how its races are received at off-track betting locations in New York. Lone Star races have been shown at OTB parlors in New York at night for the first time the week of May 19.

If purses are cut, Lone Star will become the second major racetrack in the region to cut purses. Fair Grounds in Louisiana cut purses earlier this year. Neither track has video lottery terminals or slot machines. Delta Downs in southwest Louisiana installed slots and increased purses from $40,000 per day to $240,000 in less than a year. Similar results were experienced this year at Sunland Park in New Mexico.

Azopardi said legislation for VLTs at Texas racetracks has not progressed from where it stood at the beginning of the legislative session in January.

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