VLTs Hook in Plan to Resurrect New York Racetrack

A company that for years has been trying different ways to break into the racing industry has now set its sights on an obscure former Quarter Horse racetrack in upstate New York.

TrackPower, whose major investors include Canadian and American businessmen, has announced a lease and option-to-purchase deal for Tioga Park, a long-shuttered track located west of Binghamton near the Pennsylvania border. While TrackPower announced it hopes to get Standardbred racing at the facility next year, its real prize would be video lottery terminals, which the company said it intends to pursue.

Most racetracks in the state are eligible for VLTs, though a legal challenge is under way. Under state law, only one more track is eligible to be licensed in New York without the VLT law having to be amended. TrackPower said it intends to immediately apply to the New York State Racing and Wagering Board for that license.

Officials with TrackPower, which is incorporated in Wyoming and has offices in New York and Ontario, did not return calls for comment. In a written statement, company chairman John Simmonds said Tioga "represents a unique opportunity to take advantage" of New York's new VLT law.

The company a couple of years ago abandoned its plan to operate a satellite distribution system for live racing and wagering. Last year, it also gave up plans to market a kiosk/ATM system for racetracks and off-track betting parlors. The publicly traded company, which according to its annual filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had only $17,000 in revenues last year, has since shifted to a strategy that includes the purchase of Standardbred horses. Its filings with the SEC state that it owns only two racehorses, both purchased for under $50,000 each.

The owners of Tioga Park, which TrackPower is now calling Tioga Downs, have tried to attract purchasers since talk first began more than a year ago that the state was moving to legalize VLTs. Jim Hawkins, the track's owner, did not return calls for comment.

The facility, once the subject of a political tussle, was open only briefly during the 1990s. In recent years, it has been home to rodeos and concerts. It sits on 138 acres near a future interstate highway, and features a five-eighths-mile track, seating for 3,100 people, jockeys' quarters, and stall space for up to 600 horses.