Churchill Downs Incorporated announced Friday the company is exploring options to conduct a portion of Fair Grounds Race Course's 2005-2006 live race meet at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La.
In making the announcement, CDI's president and chief executive officer Thomas H. Meeker also elaborated on CDI's ongoing efforts to locate and provide financial assistance to its Louisiana employees, as well as other offers of assistance from within the horse racing industry.
"While we are still assessing the state of our Louisiana business operations, it is highly improbable that we could conduct a race meet at Fair Grounds Race Course given the level of devastation now evident throughout the New Orleans community," said Meeker. "We are currently in discussions with the management team at Louisiana Downs, its parent company, Harrah's Entertainment Inc., and our horsemen to determine the feasibility of running a portion of Fair Grounds' 2005-2006 race dates at Harrah's Louisiana Downs. We hope to have more concrete information to share with regards to a revised racing schedule in a matter of days."
Louisiana Downs officials had previously said they would work with Churchill if approached.
"Obviously it's an issue we'd have to take up at some point, if it were to be a possibility, with the (Louisiana State Racing Commission) and the folks at Churchill Downs," Harrah's Louisiana Downs general manager Ray Tromba said a few days before the CDI announcement. "If there are ways it makes sense to help, we certainly will."
In addition to trying to obtain an alternate site for the Fair Grounds meet, Churchill continues its efforts to contact its Louisiana employees.
"Our primary focus continues to be locating our Louisiana team members who have been displaced by the storm to get them immediate aid in the form of paychecks, benefit information and additional forms of assistance," Meeker continued.
He noted that Churchill has established the CDI Louisiana Employee Hotline (877-244-5536), a toll-free number that puts employees in contact with CDI's corporate office for assistance from human resources personnel.
"To date, we have received hundreds of calls and electronic messages from Louisiana our team members, who are scattered across the country," Meeker said. "We sincerely appreciate the assistance offered by media outlets and our contacts throughout the horse racing industry in publicizing our employee hotline."
Meeker said CDI is ready to assist Louisiana employees displaced or who suffered losses from the hurricane.
"CDI has an emergency relief fund in place to help its employees across the country," added Meeker. "The ompany's HORSE Program (Helping Others Receive Support in Emergencies) was designed to provide financial aid to employees and their dependent families in times of emergency, and CDI employees company-wide are making donations to the HORSE Program to help their Louisiana coworkers. Our company will also participate in industry-wide efforts to raise funds for Louisiana horsemen and their families."
In the statement from Churchill, Meeker said Sam Houston Park in Texas is prepared to offer jobs to some displaced Fair Grounds employees, many of whom have relocated to Texas.
"We have received a generous offer of support from the management team at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, Texas," remarked Meeker. "Through our efforts to locate our Louisiana team members, we have learned that many of them are now in the Houston area. The team at Sam Houston, which conducts both Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racing, is prepared to offer employment opportunities to our displaced employees. We sincerely appreciate the track's willingness to reach out to our Louisiana team members in their time of need."
As the Company has previously stated, CDI carries insurance on Fair Grounds and its affiliated businesses to cover property loss and business interruptions.