Fair Grounds Gets Extension for Bankruptcy Filing

Fair Grounds, which was scheduled to submit a bankruptcy reorganization plan by March 29, has been granted an extension of April 15 by U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

The extension comes after a Monday ruling by a Louisiana district judge that Fair Grounds owes horsemen $89.9 million from unpaid video poker revenue over the past decade. Judge Jewel Welch ruled horsemen are owed $64.6 million from video poker revenue plus interest, which pushed the figure to nearly $90 million, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Tuesday.

Fair Grounds filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year because the horsemen's debt from video poker revenue exceeded the track's value, according to track officials. On Friday, an associate with New Orleans-based law firm Heller-Draper, which is representing Fair Grounds, said the track's reorganization plan would be filed close to the new April 15 deadline.

The Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association filed a lawsuit in 1994 against Fair Grounds and three other tracks for the unpaid funds. A district judge initially ruled in favor of the horsemen, but the First Circuit Court of Appeal overturned the ruling. Last spring, the Louisiana Supreme Court agreed with horsemen the tracks used an illegal formula and sent the case back to district court for a determination of damages.

Attorneys for Fair Grounds maintain the track dispersed the money as instructed by state officials. They plan to appeal the latest ruling.

The state's other tracks with video poker -- Harrah's Louisiana Downs, Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino, and Delta Downs Racetrack & Casino--previously reached settlements with the Louisiana HBPA.