Portland Meadows Seeking Historical Racing
by Tom LaMarra
Date Posted: 2/14/2013 1:37:25 PM
Last Updated: 2/15/2013 10:29:58 AM

The Oregon horse racing and breeding industry is making a push for historical race wagering at Portland Meadows, which last year raced in the summer and fall with mixed results.
 
Democratic Rep. Brian Clem has filed a bill calling for an act related to wagering on historical races such as the ones operating at racetracks in Arkansas and Kentucky. The legislation was filed at the request of Portland Meadows, Oregon Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, Oregon Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, and Oregon Quarter Horse Racing Association.
 
Portland Meadows, Oregon's major racetrack, is operated by The Stronach Group.
 
The House Committee on Business and Labor took testimony on the bill during a Feb. 13 hearing but took no votes. According to published reports, Portland Meadows representatives made their case for historical racing machines, which resemble video lottery terminals but are considered pari-mutuel in Arkansas and Kentucky.
 
The measure would modify Oregon pari-mutuel statutes to allow for historical race wagering. It states an "exacta, trifecta, instant video race, or other form of live or historical race that has the potential to result in the wagering pool for the race being carried forward for inclusion in the wagering pool distributed to winning (bettors) in another live or historical race are forms of (pari-)mutuel wagering for purposes of this chapter."
 
The Oregon Racing Commission would adopt rules and regulate historical race wagering.
 
The ORC approved a 2006 request by track owner Magna Entertainment Corp., which later morphed into The Stronach Group, to offer historical race wagering (also called Instant Racing) at Portland Meadows. As a result MEC invested substantial capital at Portland Meadows to improve the facility and purchase Instant Racing terminals. In 2007 the ORC reversed its decision on the advice of the state's attorney general and denied a request by MEC to offer Instant Racing under its race meet license.
 
Portland Meadows last year raced 60 days from the summer through Dec. 9. The track traditionally raced in the rainy winter but wanted to experiment with racing in nicer weather in an attempt to build on-track business.
 
Facility improvements, a marketing campaign, and the schedule change help attendance increase, but the track reported a 51.6% decrease in average daily pari-mutuel handle from $690,911 to $306,182. When it raced in the winter, Portland Meadows raced Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays when there are fewer simulcast signals and more national demand for its product.
 
All-sources handle was $18.37 million. The drop in all-sources handle was attributed to sharply lower export sales and was expected as a trade-off with rejuvenating the local market's interest in live racing, officials said.
 
"The goal of the change in our racing schedule was to rejuvenate peoples' interest in horse racing," Portland Meadows general manager William Alempijevic said after the meet. "The atmosphere at the track on a live race day was special; completely different from recent meets.  We built a strong foundation with our first meet under the new schedule."
 
Portland Meadows, which operates nine off-track betting parlors, has not yet applied for 2013 racing dates.


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