Racing System in Puerto Rico Approved for Gaming

Legislation to authorize gaming through the El Comandante Racetrack and Off-Track Betting Agency system in Puerto Rico has been approved by the government, said Equus Gaming Co., a partnership with Thoroughbred and entertainment interests in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Equus chief executive officer and co-chairman Thomas Wilson said the legislation--in effect a new racing law for Puerto Rico--was signed June 7. In a release, Wilson said the measure would allow for the addition of video lottery terminals in about 700 wagering outlets that make up the El Comandante system. It is the only horse racing franchise in Puerto Rico.

The law allocates 15% of the net win from VLTs to the respective off-track betting agencies, and contributes another 15% to purses at El Comandante. The balance will be split between the VLT operator and the racetrack operator.

According to The Jockey Club Fact Book, $226 million was wagered on Thoroughbred racing in Puerto Rico in 2003, $8 million on track and $218 million at OTB facilities. The 2004 foal crop in Puerto Rico is estimated at 555 based on Reports of Mares Bred.

The release said it's expected El Comandante Racetrack "will receive sufficient net revenues from VLT operations to fund the interest and principal repayment on approximately $60 million of racetrack first-mortgage bonds, which have been in default for the past two years."

Wilson credited the Puerto Rico House, Senate, and Governor's office for moving the measure along. He said the bill was necessary to save an ailing racing industry that had been severely impacted by increased competition from alternative gaming.

El Comandante will entertain proposals from gaming companies to install and operate the VLTs.