The Fair Grounds, Horsemen Reach Deal

The Fair Grounds and Louisiana horsemen reached a $25 million settlement over video poker purse revenue Aug. 7.

The agreement, hammered out Friday night and approved by attorneys from both sides Saturday, stems from a $90 million judgement against the track rendered in March by a state district court. The New Orleans track subsequently sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and was facing an auction of its holdings Aug. 16.

With the settlement, Douglas Draper, an attorney representing the Fair Grounds, told The Times Picayune that the track will seek dismissal of the bankruptcy proceedings.

A state district judge ruled that the Fair Grounds had been improperly withholding video poker revenues from purses for more than a decade. Three other Louisiana tracks had settled the dispute with the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association prior to the March hearing.

Fair Grounds President Bryan Krantz called the settlement "a big step in terms of resolving the future of the track.

"I guess now we have to concentrate on what complete resolution of a new business will look like going forward," Krantz told The Times Picayune.

On Monday, the Fair Grounds plans to ask the bankruptcy court to approve the deal and put off the auction, Draper told the newspaper.

In addition to the monetary settlement with horsemen, the Fair Grounds has also agreed to pay off other creditors in full, an amount estimated at $12 million, and provide $750,000 for backstretch improvements at the storied track over the next two years.

The Fair Grounds is negotiating for an ownership partner to help pay off the debt. The Krantz family owns controlling interest.

"We will continue to pursue it all," Krantz said. "What we are trying to do is in the best interest of the current equity shareholders, the horsemen, the racing public and the whole industry."

Steve Thompson, an attorney for the horsemen's association, said the settlement "is fair and represents all that can be achieved, given the financial realities and economic circumstances of the Fair Grounds. I am genuinely pleased for the horsemen who have been so patient."