MEC Racetrack Sales Moving Along Slowly
by Tom LaMarra
Date Posted: 9/9/2009 9:28:55 AM
Last Updated: 9/10/2009 8:39:07 AM

The Chickasaw Nation appears well on its way to purchasing Remington Park in Oklahoma from Magna Entertainment Corp., but the fate of other MEC racetrack holdings is fuzzy at best.

Global Gaming Solutions, a subsidiary of the Chickasaw Indian tribe, was the lone bidder for Remington at $80.25 million. An auction was held Sept. 8 in New York City, the Associated Press reported.

The Chickasaw Nation expressed its interest publicly in Remington earlier this year. The track in Oklahoma City has gaming machines.

MEC, which at one time owned more than 10 racetracks, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March. Thus far, only Remington has been sold, though a federal bankruptcy court judge must approve the sale the week of Sept. 14.

Earlier in September, MEC said it would have to rethink the sale of Lone Star Park in Texas and Santa Anita Park in California because of a lack of acceptable bids. An auction for MEC-owned Thistledown near Cleveland, Ohio, was scheduled for Sept. 10 but could be postponed because of developments in Ohio.

Thistledown and other Ohio racetracks have been authorized to install video lottery terminals pending resolution of legal challenges. Also, there is a November referendum for full-scale casino gambling, the results of which could impact any potential sale of Ohio racetracks.

Officials privately said potential bidders in Thistledown include Penn National Gaming Inc., which has had representatives on site, and Jeff Jacobs, chairman of MTR Gaming Group.

PNGI already owns Raceway Park, a harness track in Toledo, Ohio, and is a major backer of the referendum to authorize casinos in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo. MTR Gaming owns Scioto Downs, a Columbus-area harness track, as well as Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in neighboring West Virginia, and Presque Isle Downs & Casino in neighboring Pennsylvania.

Thistledown, Mountaineer, and Presque Isle are all located a few hours apart; ownership of all three would make MTR Gaming the dominant player in the region.

Meanwhile, word is circulating a majority interest in Beulah Park, the privately owned track near Columbus, is being sought by Churchill Downs Inc. Beulah Park majority owner Charles Ruma a few years ago sold an Ohio-based account wagering service to CDI for more than $30 million.

A Churchill Downs spokesperson couldn’t be immediately reached for comment Sept. 9, though the company usually issues a standard statement that it doesn’t comment on potential deals.

On Sept. 1, MEC surrendered its rights to operating harness racing at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in western Pennsylvania. MEC sold the track five years ago to casino interests but maintained control of the live racing and simulcast operation.

The XpressBet.com wagering service owned by MEC is headquartered at The Meadows.



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