Oklahoma Racetracks Anticipate Gaming Licenses

Oklahoma may be less than two weeks away from having its first racetrack casino operation, Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission executive director Gordon Hare said June 9. The racing commission's June 16 meeting should chart the course of on-track electronic gaming.

Blue Ribbon Downs in Sallisaw is the prohibitive favorite to become the first to offer video gambling. There is a good chance Blue Ribbon and Remington Park will be granted racetrack gaming licenses during the meeting, Hare said.

"Blue Ribbon said it would be offering gaming within five days of receipt of a gaming license," Hare said. "Of the three tracks, only Blue Ribbon is talking of immediately opening (a gaming area). Both Remington Park and Blue Ribbon made presentations for gaming licenses at the May meeting, and Will Rogers Downs (in Claremore) is scheduled to have its presentation at the next meeting."

Blue Ribbon officials told the commission of its plans to immediately begin video gaming, while Remington, Hare said, indicated it would wait until the fall.

"A lawyer from (Remington owner) Magna Entertainment Corp. said the track planning a grand opening for Oct. 28," Hare said. "Remington said it wanted to do it right and decided against a temporary facility. He said they said they could have opened in August but were afraid they might have patrons become disenchanted with a temporary site and not come back. He said they have one chance to make a good first impression."

Remington officials said the track has begun a $32-million construction project to add a casino to the existing grandstand and to make other improvements. The license would be granted if a report from Mel Webb, the commission's law enforcement director, proves favorable.

"The commission will get his report on a background investigation of the gaming at each site, with status reports on security and surveillance," Hare said. "It really all depends on what Mel has to say."

The Choctaw Nation Indian tribe owns Blue Ribbon, while the Cherokee Nation owns Will Rogers Downs.

Will Rogers Downs applied for its gaming operator license June 1. To have a gaming operator license, an applicant must also have an organizational racing license, Hare said. The track applied for a 12-day mixed-breed season from Nov. 5-Dec. 11, and for 2006, Will Rogers Downs applied for 42 days of mixed-breed racing.

"Will Rogers Downs said in its application for a gaming license that it would have gaming within 60 days of licensing," Hare said.

Remington applied for 118 days split into two meets in 2006. The track requested a 50-day Quarter Horse, Appaloosa, and Paint season from March 10-June 4, and also applied for a 68-day Thoroughbred season from Aug. 4-Nov. 28.

Blue Ribbon, which has 60 days this year, requested 61 mixed-breed race days from July 29-Nov. 18. Fair Meadows in Tulsa, a fair meet that will not be allowed electronic gaming, requested 33 mixed-breed days from June 1-July 22. The Will Rogers Downs meet would run from Feb. 24-May 28.