New Hampshire Track Between 'Rock' And Hard Place

Racing could cease at New Hampshire's Rockingham Park this year because a bill that would have allowed video lottery terminals at the Salem facility is dead.

Edward Callahan, vice president and general manager of Rockingham, said the track is in tough financial shape and the 1,200 VLTs the legislation would have permitted could have turned things around. The state House killed the bill by a vote of 217-130.

Callahan said the track will open for its summer season, which runs June 9-Sept. 22, but faces some tough decisions afterward.

"We've fought the good fight for many, many years, and it just comes to a point where you have to look at the future," Callahan said.

At the conclusion of the 2002 season, Callahan said he would put together a list of recommendations concerning the track's future for Rockingham's owners. "It will take a while for me to put my recommendations together for them," he said. "But regretfully, I don't believe they will be very rosy."

Rockingham's purses averaged $94,000 per day last year, with an average of 7.2 starters per race. Callahan sees competition from tracks with higher purses reducing his field size.

"Generally, we attract a lot of horses that come up from Florida, the Carolinas, and Virginia," he said. "Each year, we've seen a few less because West Virginia is closer and purses there have, of course, grown dramatically (since the installation of slots). We used to attract a few outfits out of Louisiana, but that really didn't happen last year. You have to pass an awful lot of places before you get here. And in a lot of those places, the purses are considerably larger."