Magna Pulls Instant Racing Machines in Oregon

In a surprise move in Oregon, Magna Entertainment Corp. has removed the Instant Racing machines that were installed earlier this year at its two tracks, Portland Meadows and Multnomah Greyhound Park.

Officials for RaceTech, which developed and launched Instant Racing at Oaklawn Park, and the Oregon Racing Commission both signaled surprise at Magna's decision. Portland Meadows and Multnomah had shared 20 Instant Racing terminals since approval was granted by the commission in May. The move seemed particularly interesting considering RaceTech is a partner of Amtote, which Magna recently bought a 30% stake in.

A call to the Magna corporate offices was forwarded to president Jim McAlpine, who was not available for comment. Jeff Grady, general manager at Portland Meadows, was not immediately available Wednesday.

Louis Cella, a partner in RaceTech, said the testing period for Instant Racing terminals in Oregon had "surpassed all our goals and plateaus." He added there were plans to immediately expand to 100 machines in Oregon.

"The racing commission had embraced Instant Racing, and horsemen and dogmen had embraced it," Cella said. "But at Magna headquarters there was a change in plan. It was a surprise to us and it took the racing commission by surprise because it has been a beneficial rule for Oregon racing."

Cella said he has since been in contact with commission chairman Stephen Walters, who continues to support the concept. However, there are no plans to lobby Magna to reinstate the terminals.

"Hopefully there will be some reconsideration, and that's because I know the terminals were generating money for the horsemen and dogmen," Cella said. "I know they were bringing new people to the racetrack, and I know the commission was receiving money it otherwise would not have had."

Instant Racing terminals allow patron's pari-mutuel wagering on previously ran races. In addition to Oregon, Instant Racing is legal in Arkansas and Wyoming. RaceTech has hoped to expand to additional jurisdictions with the hope of the games providing huge common pools.

At Oaklawn Park, 150 Instant Racing terminals accounted for $30 million in handle in 2002 and generated $500,000 in purse money, according to company figures. RaceTech earlier this year announced Instant Racing wagering was running 80% ahead of last year's number.