Oklahoma Industry: Racetrack Gaming Key to Survival

The future of Remington Park and perhaps the future of the entire Thoroughbred industry in Oklahoma could depend on a vote by House of Representatives to legalize electronic gaming at the state's racetracks.

The bill passed the Senate by 25-19 vote May 29 and is awaiting approval by the House. The Oklahoma legislative session ends at 5 p.m. CDT May 30.

"The bill was not brought up in the House (after it passed the Senate) because the leadership believed there were not enough votes to support it," said Corey Johnsen, group vice president of southern operations for Magna Entertainment Corp., which owns Remington. "And as of right now, it's unlikely that it would heard (May 30)."

Johnsen said Remington plans to hold its 2003 meet, which runs from Aug. 22-Nov. 30, and apply for 2004 racing dates.

"We just plan to take things one step at a time," Johnsen said. "We'll apply for 2004 dates and will run the 2003 meeting and see where the legislative efforts take us in Oklahoma. A decision concerning the long-term status of the track will be decided in the future."

Donna Picou, executive director of the 500-plus membership of the Oklahoma Thoroughbred Association, said it is critical the legislature understands horsemen need a level playing field with Indian casinos.

"This is very critical to the entire state," Picou said. "If this doesn't pass and if we aren't placed on a level playing field, the horsemen can just pack up and leave. It's the nature of the business. They can just find another place to race, breed, and buy farms in which to live on. This will be the state's loss."