SALEM -- The upcoming fall meet at Oregon's main horse track could be a non-starter due to pressure from Attorney General Hardy Myers over controversial gaming machines.
Live racing was due to begin again this October at Portland Meadows but the Oregon Racing Commission (ORC) last month delayed setting dates for the season. The track may have to shutter if it doesn't race live and can't offer simulcast wagering on out-state tracks.
Track owner Magna Entertainment Corp, the country's largest operator of live tracks and broadcast racing, is locked in a legal dispute with Myers over so-called Instant Racing machines. They allow customers to research and wager on video-taped historical races.
Magna recently purchased the co-developer of the Instant Racing system, pari-mutuel supplier AmTote. Magna operates 12 thoroughbred and harness tracks across the U.S., including three that also run on-track casinos.
The ORC, at the same meeting last month that deferred Portland Meadows' dates for 720 races, voted to temporarily suspend a rule that allowed the machines on Oregon tracks. The Commission aims to make the repeal permanent under pressure from the AG's office.
That decision could jeoparize the upcoming racing season at Portland Meadows. Magna won ORC approval in 2006 for Instant Racing and has since invested "millions" on new facilities at the track to hold 150 machines, the Thoroughbred Times (TT) reported.
Magna had budgeted on revenue from the Instant Racing facilities to help support the forthcoming live racing season at Portland Meadows, TT's Frank Angst noted.
ORC Chairman Jeff Gilmour told TT he was "frustrated" with the outcome because ORC had worked closely with Myers' ofice when it first approved the machines last year. Myers has since decided that the Instant Racing machines breach Oregon law.
Without the machines and the live racing they support, Magna will instead attempt to open Portland Meadows to offer live simulcast wagering. But Gilmour doesn't believe this will be possible.
That would leave the dates available for a lesser-known Oregon track like Grants Pass to race more frequently, TT noted. Grants Pass currently stages on only 16 per year.