Survival of Portland Meadows Tied to Legislation

Magna Entertainment Corp. is banking on legislation that would loosen state simulcasting laws and allow Portland Meadows to remain viable.

On Feb. 21, members of the state Judiciary Committee, at MEC's request, introduced legislation that, among other things, would allow the company to offer simulcast wagering at Portland Meadows on days when live racing isn't being conducted. Currently, simulcasts can only be offered during a live meet.

MEC officials in January said live racing at Portland Meadows, the state's largest track, was in jeopardy without legislative relief.

The state's largest newspaper, the Oregonian, reported Feb. 24 on the minutes of a recent meeting between MEC representatives and ORC members. According to transcripts, MEC chief U.S. counsel Scott Daruty told the ORC: "If we are able to pass legislation that will allow Portland Meadows to simulcast year-round, horse racing in Oregon has a chance to survive."

Daruty said MEC projected $2.5 million in losses in 2005 based on the operation of Portland Meadows and Multnomah Greyhound Park in Wood Village, a Portland suburb. MEC, which recently backed out of its lease of Multnomah and effectively ended dog racing in the state after 71 years, said the economics of the industry--low attendance and stiff competition from other forms of gambling in the state--necessitated the possible shut down of operations.

In an interview with the Oregonian, ORC chairman Stephen Walters characterized the situation as "severe," and said flexibility would help correct what he called "antiquated" and "restrictive" laws. Walters said the commission wouldn't allow the elimination of racing--or the approval of a token season--to accommodate MEC, the newspaper reported.