Fair Grounds Generic

Fair Grounds Generic

Hodges Photography / Lynn Roberts

Louisiana Grants One-Year License to CDI

The track must make improvements to the facility, particularly to the turf course.

The Louisiana Racing Commission has renewed Churchill Downs Inc.'s license to hold live racing at the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots and operate its off-track betting parlors in the state.

The Times-Picayune reported the license granted April 29 is for one year on a conditional basis for both Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racing. The decision does not affect the gaming license, which is provided by the state.

Fair Grounds president Tim Bryant has outlined an improvement plan for the track. It includes spending up to $690,000, if deemed necessary by consultants, to overhaul the turf course in 2015 if it does not show improvement this year. The company spent $200,000 last year in repairs and maintenance on the turf course.

The Advocate in Baton Rouge has reported sharp criticism from the local racing community about the lack of maintenance at Fair Grounds, particularly to the turf course. Critics have said the publicly held company is focused too much on its slot machine and video poker operation instead of improving conditions for fans and horsemen. CDI has owned Fair Grounds since 2004.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that the events which have occurred have gotten their attention,” Commissioner Thomas Grimstead, of New Orleans, told The Advocate. “But we’ve heard a lot of this before.”

He said the conditional renewal was the most the commission could do.

“A flat-out denial of their license would have put us immediately in the courts, and that would have meant a protracted battle over it,” Grimstead said.

CDI must provide the racing commission a list with of the specific work and improvements be done within the next 60 days. 

This report includes contributions from the Associated Press