Magna: 'Show Me State' Ripe With Possibilities

Magna Entertainment is on the move again, this time in Missouri, where pari-mutuel wagering is legal but no racetracks have been built.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Magna hired eight lobbyists to push for legislation that would get the Missouri Horse Racing Commission back in business. The company also wants approval to offer year-round simulcasting, which isn't permitted under current law.

A bill co-sponsored by nine legislators has been introduced in the House and Senate, where it could be discussed this week. The legislation spells out the powers of the racing commission, a requirement that at least 50 days of live racing be held, and a mandate that a capital investment of at least $25 million be made to build a track.

The bill also contains provisions to support a Missouri breeders' fund through pari-mutuel revenue. The racing commission would administer the fund.

Wording in the bill would permit a licensed racetrack to offer simulcasting "on any given date or series of dates" with commission approval.

Missouri voters approved horse racing in the mid-1980s. Since that time, no tracks have been built, but the state did get riverboat casino gambling. Pari-mutuel wagering is available in neighboring states -- Fairmount Park in Illinois is located just east of St. Louis, and The Woodlands in Kansas is located just west of Kansas City.

The Missouri tax rate on pari-mutuel handle is no more than 1.5% on the first $100 million in wagers. The Post-Dispatch reported that casino operators oppose that tax rate because about a third of their receipts go toward taxes and fees.

Frank Stronach's Magna empire continues to grow. The company now owns eight tracks: Bay Meadows, Golden Gate Fields, and Santa Anita Park in California; Gulfstream Park in Florida; Thistledown in Ohio; Remington Park in Oklahoma; Great Lakes Downs in Michigan; and The Meadows, a Standardbred track in Pennsylvania.

In addition, Magna has explored lease agreements at Portland Meadows in Oregon, and Suffolk Downs in Massachusetts. Company officials also have met with track officials in Texas and Washington.