Legislature OKs Instant Racing at Portland

The measure, which authorizes historical race wagering, goes to the governor.

The Oregon Senate May 23 passed legislation authorizing Portland Meadows to install historical racing machines.

The House of Representatives passed the measure April 29. It now goes to Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber for his consideration.

Historical race wagering, also called Instant Racing, is offered in Arkansas and Kentucky. The machines resemble video lottery terminals but are considered pari-mutuel because wagers are pooled, and the results of the games are based on previously run horse races.

Portland Meadows in 2008 asked the Oregon Racing Commission for permission to install the machines but was rebuffed because the agency said the form of wagering wasn't allowed under pari-mutuel law in the state. The ORC decision was upheld in the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Portland Meadows, operated by The Stronach Group, had received approval from the ORC to install the machines in 2006, but it reversed that decision based on an opinion from the state Attorney General's office.

Portland Meadows last year raced 60 days from the summer through Dec. 9. The track traditionally raced in the rainy winter months 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 helped increase attendance, 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.

Portland Meadows, which operates nine off-track betting parlors, has not yet applied for 2013 racing dates. Will Alempijevic, who manages the track, said May 24 Portland Meadows "is actively working with the horsemen to develop a framework for a strong and vibrant horse racing industry in Oregon."