Cherokees ready to make bid on horse track


Wednesday, October 15th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) _ The Cherokee Nation is betting on the success of an eastern Oklahoma horse track and has approved plans to bid when Blue Ribbon Downs hits the auction block next month.

The Cherokee Nation Council approved a resolution Monday authorizing Cherokee Nation Enterprises to bid on the Sallisaw track Nov. 4.

``Blue Ribbon Downs has a huge impact on the economy in Sequoyah County and we want to see it succeed,'' Principal Chief Chad Smith said.

He said Cherokee Nation Enterprises' experience in operating gaming facilities ``will prove very helpful in making Blue Ribbon Downs a success.''

The track is scheduled to be auctioned in a sheriff's sale on the Sequoyah County Courthouse steps.

Sallisaw city officials sought to foreclose on the track and sell it, alleging its owners, Race Horses Inc., owe the city $2.8 million from a 1995 loan. The company hasn't made a payment on that debt in 31 months, records show.

Race Horses Inc. wants the state's high court to block the auction.

The racetrack has an appraised value of $2.99 million. The Sallisaw Municipal Authority could take over the track if no buyer offers enough money to pay off the city's loan.

The track, which offered the state's first pari-mutuel betting races in 1984, employs nearly 200 people and generates millions of dollars.

David Stewart, president and chief executive officer of Cherokee Nation Enterprises, said the tribal operation wants to purchase the track ``if it is available at a price that makes good business sense.''

``It would be a complimentary property to our existing operations,'' he said.

CNE operates three tribal gaming facilities, smoke shops, convenience stores and a gift shop.