Global Gaming, a subsidiary of the Chickasaw Nation, was granted a racing and gaming license Dec. 22 by the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission, the Associated Press reported.
The commission approved the license application by a 6-0 vote, clearing the way for Global Gaming, which is purchasing Remington Park near Oklahoma City from bankrupt Magna Entertainment Corp. for $80.25 million.
The wire service reported the sale would become final Dec. 31.
Global Gaming CEO John Elliott said patrons of the state's largest horseracing track would see immediate improvements at the 21-year-old facility. The first changes will come at the track's casino, where 50 new machines will operate starting Jan. 1, raising the casino's total to 750, the maximum allowed by state law.
"The technology (for gaming machines) is almost like video games," Elliott told the AP. "It moves quickly and you have to be upgrading it all the time. I suspect (the casino) hasn’t had major upgrades in two to three years."
Work on updating corporate suites also is a priority, he said.
During the next two to three years, he said "customers will see continual improvements" including flat-screen televisions throughout the facility, new carpet in high-traffic areas, and updated building facades and signs.
He said he expects the improvements will cost between $10 million and $12 million.
Horsemen are pleased that the Ada-based tribe has bought the track, said Constantin Rieger, the racing commission's executive director.
The new owners "have pledged capital expenses to fix things that are well overdue," he said. "At least the commitment will be there. I think that fuels the excitement. I think the previous owners might not have had that level of excitement."
Remington Park, which cost $94 million to build, opened in 1988. Magna Entertainment bought it from the Edward J. DeBartolo Corp. for $10 million in 1999 and sunk $35 million into renovations after November 2004, when voters approved a ballot measure allowing the casino to be established at the track.
Proceeds from the casino, which opened in November 2005, have fueled higher purses for horsemen, which has resulted in higher-quality racing.
Remington Park general manager Scott Wells said that with the change in ownership, it's "truly a new era" for the track.
"Now we're going to do some things that will be apparent to the guests," he said. "It's all about the customer experience when you get right down to it. When you can provide (quality) racing and give a facelift to what is essentially a luxury plant, then I think our future is the brightest it's ever been."
Remington Park's annual thoroughbred meet ended Dec. 14. For the first time since 2003, attendance for the meet declined. Track officials said 403,411 fans attended 67 race days, an average of 6,021 and a 6.7% drop from 2008.
The track's pari-mutuel wagering numbers also dropped, recording $45,730,096 in total handle for the meet, a drop of 10.8%. Wells attributed the drop in part to the track's Friday-through-Monday race schedule. It will change to a Wednesday-Saturday schedule next year.
The track had a healthy average field size of 9.5 horses per race and a daily average purse distribution of $200,805, down 4.1% from 2008.
"We've always thought (Remington Park) had a lot of potential," Elliott said. "We'll see if we can demonstrate some of that in the next year."
With the sale of Remington Park all but finalized, another Chickasaw subsidiary will turn its attention to finishing its purchase of Lone Star Park. Global Gaming is buying the Grand Prairie, Texas, track from Magna Entertainment for $47.8 million but still needs to obtain a Texas racing license.