Indiana Sets Criteria for Riverboat Supplement

by James Platz

The Indiana Horse Racing Commission has established criteria for the distribution of riverboat casino admissions-tax revenue in light of the fact a second racetrack is scheduled to open in 2002 in the state.

During a meeting Monday, commission chairman Nick Stein offered modifications, including a lift of the cap that limits Hoosier Park's allocation to $6.8 million. The modification calls for elimination of a promotional fund, which amounts to 10% of casino admissions-tax revenue.

Under the new rules, the racetrack's share would increase from 30% to 40%. In a year when only one association conducts live pari-mutuel racing, $500,000 would be distributed to breed development: Thoroughbred and Standardbred development funds would each get $200,000, and $100,000 would go to the Quarter Horse development fund.

In a year in which more than one association conducts live racing, 40% of admissions-tax revenue would go to the associations, but it would be divided proportionally based on business at the tracks and off-track wagering facilities. In a year in which each track conducts Standardbred and Thoroughbred racing, the 40% would be divided equally.

John Long, chief operating officer of Churchill Downs Inc., majority owner of Hoosier Park, said the equal split in revenue would no allow an operator to expand. "I don't see how there would be incentive to open up another OTB site," he said.

Doug Brown, an attorney for the proposed Indianapolis Downs near Shelbyville, said one OTB parlor would contribute $1.5 million a year to the company's bottom line.

"We feel highly incited to open OTBs," said Brown, who stated Indianapolis Downs' studies indicated an off-track site would contribute $1.5 million to the facility's bottom line.

In related business, Brown outlined the financial status of Indianapolis Downs. When directly asked if the company had exercised its option to purchase the proposed site, Brown said the contracts had been extended.

He assured the commission Indianapolis Downs would close on the property. Brown said negotiations are under way with a lender, but he wouldn't discuss details.

Jonathan Moen of Mid-States Engineering said a preliminary traffic study was completed in August, and that meetings with representatives from Shelby County and the city of Shelbyville were being conducted once a week. Indianapolis Downs general manager Gil Short told commissioners three contractors had been interviewed, and two companies that construct barns had been contacted.

The track, which plans to offer only harness racing at the outset, must open by early December 2002 or face penalties. The site on which it is to be located is just off Interstate 74, southeast of Indianapolis, and about 90 minutes northwest of Cincinnati, Ohio.