Emerald Sees Upside With Muckleshoot Deal

Emerald Downs is experiencing a boost in daily purses and an extension of its 2005 racing season because of a $1.69-million investment by the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, which owns the land beneath the Auburn, Wash., racetrack and operates a nearby casino.

Ron Crockett, president of Emerald Downs, said the deal, effective Aug. 19, was expected to raise daily average purses 15% in the final 20 days of this year's season, resulting in an overall average of $104,000, compared with $89,246 last year. Track officials estimate the daily average will increase about 19% to $106,000 in 2005, the highest in the track's eight years of operation.

"This increase provides a solid foundation for racing's long-term existence and success in Washington," Crockett said.

The investment also will allow the extension of the 2005 racing season to 101 dates, 11 more than this year. The season will run from April 15-Oct. 16.

"Of the dollars (the tribe) has been fortunate enough to get via the casino operation, they have reinvested in the community in many, many ways," Crockett said. "They have committed $1.69 million to the (racing) industry. Some of those dollars will be used to take care of a need both of us have. They have a need to take care of their tribal members, and we're seeing an increasing need to train people to become grooms."

In return for its investment, Emerald Downs will provide a grooming course for tribal members to begin careers in the racing industry. The tribe also will be the title sponsor of the Sept. 19 Washington Cup Classic.

Emerald Downs currently leases the racetrack's land from the Muckleshoot Tribe, which purchased the land for $73.6 million in 2002.

Crockett said it's too early to speculate as to whether the partnership will lead to eventual tribe ownership of the racetrack. However, he believes the infusion of cash will positively impact the future of Washington's racing industry at all levels.

Tribal chair John Daniels Jr. said the parties would evaluate the investment at the end of next year. "We'll see where we are (in 2005) and take it from there," Daniels said at a news conference as reported by the Seattle Times. "For now, this makes sense to us. It's a good arrangement."