Indian Tribe to Buy Emerald Downs Property

Emerald Downs' biggest competitor will soon own the track's 157-acre property. The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, which operates a large casino within six miles of Emerald Downs in Auburn, WA, has agreed to purchase the land where the 6-year-old racetrack sits.

Northwest Racing Associates, which is headed by track president Ron Crockett, has a lease on the land through 2056. It's next renegotiation is set for 2010.

"Speculation is running rampant, but it's business as usual," said Susie Sourwine of Emerald Downs. "We'll go on from here and meet withour new landlord. At the moment we're not distressed or overly pleased, its just same old, same old." Sourwine said the track learned of the sale on Nov. 25.

For now, the new owners aren't making any moves to change the situation. "The tribe has become the landlord and they have not indicated any plans for changing the current operation," said tribe spokesman Rollin Fatland.

Members of the Segale family currently own the Emerald Downs property in the name La Terra Limited Partnership. Terms of the sale have not been made public, but it is expected to close in January. The nine-member tribal council has approved the proposal on behalf of the 1,700-member Muckleshoot Tribe. Beyond the casino, the tribe owns a bingo parlor and it is building an ampitheater and a mall.

Currently, tribal casinos are the only location where slot machines are permitted in Washington state. A coalition is trying to expand slot machines, or similar gaming mechanisms, to bars, restaurants, and entertainment sites. The issue has been a painful one for some horsemen who see other states that have slots-type gaming at racetracks offering higher purses than Emerald Downs.

"Everybody wants slots. We've got so much competition here with casinos. One of the biggest casinos in the state is minutes away. They take a lot of our business," said Emerald Downs trainer Steve Bullock earlier this month. "I wish we could have gotten a percentage from the casino. I don't know why the state would let them (have slots) and haven't let us."