Fair Grounds Generic

Fair Grounds Generic

Hodges Photography / Lynn Roberts

Louisiana Puts More Pressure on Fair Grounds

The racing commission has joined the Legislature in calling for investment.

The Louisiana State Racing Commission has scheduled a special meeting for May 1 to consider the license Churchill Downs Inc. holds to operate Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots and a ring of off-track betting parlors that have video poker machines.

The New Orleans Times Picayune reported April 22 that the LSRC during its regular meeting opted not to approve what it called CDI's 10-year "rolling license" to operate the New Orleans racetrack, which has slot machines. The delay stems from complaints from horsemen and state lawmakers that the facility isn't being properly operated or maintained.

Earlier in April the Louisiana House of Representatives passed by a 94-0 vote legislation that would mandate CDI to pay 10% of its slots revenue to support primarily infrastructure at Fair Grounds. The move was unusual given the fact no other Louisiana racetracks–they all have slots–are included in the bill, which has been sent to a Senate committee.

The legislation states the 10% of slots money would be used for "maintenance and capital improvement projects (at Fair Grounds) including frontside and backside projects, improvements to grandstands, stables, racetrack surfaces, and turf racing surfaces of suitable quality." The LSRC would have to approve capital improvement plans each year.

The bill states the action on Fair Grounds is necessary due to the "historical significance, former and potential economic significance to the state at large, and need for revitalization and rehabilitation," which was the intent of the Legislature when it approved slots for racetracks.

The state's other tracks are Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino, Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino, and Louisiana Downs.

CDI officials earlier told Louisiana lawmakers business has shifted to off-track outlets, so it's difficult to make large investments in on-track amenities.

Racetracks with gaming have come under fire in other states for merely paying purses and not investing on the racing side. The LSRC, however, could be the first regulatory agency to publicly indicate a license is in jeopardy for not making an investment.

A note with the legislation outlines the intent of the Louisiana Pari-Mutuel Live Racing Facility Economic Redevelopment and Gaming Act, which authorized slots at tracks. It says it is "public policy of the state that pari-mutuel wagering facilities which offer live horse racing have historically made great contributions to the economic development of the state at large and particularly the agriculture and horse breeding industries."

CDI also owns Arlington Park in Illinois, Calder Casino & Race Course in Florida, Churchill Downs in Kentucky, and 50% of Miami Valley Gaming & Racing in Ohio.