Commission OKs racino license for Claremore track

Friday, October 21st 2005, 3:55 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission approved a gaming license for a Claremore horse racing track that will allow about 250 gambling machines to be operating by mid-November.

The commission voted unanimously Thursday to grant a license to operate machines at Will Rogers Downs, a track owned by Cherokee Nation Enterprises.

``We're anxious to get started,'' said Mark Enterline, the track's general manager.

The Cherokee Nation has spent ``considerably more than $2 million'' to upgrade the facility, Enterline said.

He said the track now has about 400 stalls for horses and plans to increase that by about 200 more.

There has not been horse racing at the track since 2001 and it has been used as a horse training facility and a recreational vehicle camp.

The commission also granted Will Rogers Downs permission to skip a 12-day racing meet that was scheduled for early November.

Enterline said it would work better for the track to concentrate on getting the gaming machines installed, and revenue from that enterprise could be used to build up the purse for racing.

Both the quarter horse and thoroughbred racing associations supported the delay, saying the track needs the time to get up and running.

Also at the meeting, the commission approved measures that could lead to a greater variety of gambling machines in the state's three racinos.

Track officials and horsemen said this will lead to greater profits and more money for racing purses and the state.

The commission revised a drafted order in executive session, then voted in open session without explaining either the draft or the revisions.

The order will be released Friday or Monday, commissioners said.

Their vote concerned a request from the Choctaw Nation, which owns Blue Ribbon Downs, to allow games to be played in racinos if they are allowed in tribal casinos.

When Blue Ribbon Downs' racino opened in Sallisaw on Monday, its 250 games were divided among two manufacturers: IGT and Bally.

The tribe's gaming director, Janie Dillard, said those games netted far less than games installed in the tribe's casinos.

A reciprocal certification of games for tribal casinos and racetrack casinos would expand the number of manufacturers and games available at the tracks.