Horse racing could leave state

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – The Magna Entertainment Corp., which recently ended greyhound racing in Oregon, says horse racing may be the next sport to see the finish line if legislators don’t provide some relief.

Magna representatives say live racing is hurt by competition from the Oregon Lottery, tribal casinos and online wagering.

"We’re seeing the same problems that faced the dog track," said Chris Dragone, general manager at the Portland Meadows racetrack.

Magna wants legislation that would allow it to capture revenue from simulcast wagering at times when horse races aren’t being run at Portland Meadows. The track’s season runs from October through April.

Senate Bill 929 was introduced by Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, at Magna’s request. Dave Nelson, a Magna lobbyist, said this week that the early response from legislators had been positive.

Oregon law now requires tracks to hold live races when they also are importing the simulcast signal of races elsewhere.

Simulcasting works like this: As a race is run at Portland Meadows, it is televised at as many as 20 off-track betting sites in Oregon and to tracks or gambling sites out of state. At the same time, signals from other tracks are beamed to Portland Meadows and to the state’s off-track parlors.

Someone attending Portland Meadows or one of the betting sites could then wager on the eight or 10 races happening live in Portland on a given day, plus 40 to 50 races beamed in from elsewhere.

The state’s off-track network has become the biggest generator of money wagered in Oregon on horse and dog racing. In 2004, off-track betting accounted for nearly 60 percent of the $63.2 million wagered.