Roussel Offers $30 Million for Fair Grounds

Louie Roussel III, who owned a controlling interest in Fair Grounds until 1990, is the latest to make an offer for the New Orleans track. A week after Churchill Downs Inc. bid $28.5 million for Fair Grounds, Roussel upped the offer to $30 million, according to published reports.

Fair Grounds filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August after a court ruled horsemen were owed at least $60 million from video poker revenue. Track officials have maintained they are not liable for the debt because the revenue was distributed based on instructions from state police.

CDI's offer included $20 million to settle with horsemen but Roussel did not indicate what horsemen would get in his bid.

Jim Gelpi, attorney for the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune it is wrong for horsemen to interfere with negotiations "but people can't really deal with the Fair Grounds without knowing what the horsemen want to do or are willing to do."

Under Roussel's proposal, control of Fair Grounds would be turned over to horsemen, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage officials, and prominent members of the community.

Roussel said a mistake he made when previously owning Fair Grounds was not including neighborhood residents in track policy.

Fair Grounds has until March 29 to submit a plan for reorganization. An attorney representing the track said the plan would include provisions to have the track auctioned. If the courts approve the plan the auction could take place as soon as July.

About 10 companies have expressed interest in Fair Grounds, including Magna Entertainment Corp. The Times-Picayune reports MEC officials visited Fair Grounds last week.

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