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Wendy Reuer, Published November 23 2012

North Dakota Horse Park hopes for longer Fargo meet

FARGO – The North Dakota Horse Park is asking the state Racing Commission to allow more racing dates in 2013 than in 2012.

The commission will meet Thursday in Bis-marck to consider the number of days live racing will be held at both the Fargo track and at Chippewa Downs in Belcourt.

Horse Race North Dakota, which operates the Fargo horse park, is requesting 12 days of racing in four weekends, according to the meeting agenda.

The Outdoor Recreation Development Association requested 10 race dates or five weekends of racing in Belcourt. ORDA conducts racing at Chippewa Downs.

After two years of dormancy, the North Dakota Horse Park hosted a four-day meet in July. The four-day meet generated a $120,000 profit and attracted more than 7,000 spectators. But, the track still faces about $2 million in debt, mostly related to the facility’s construction.

The racing commission regulates and helps fund racing at the tracks, but it cannot help pay off construction costs.

Racing Director Winston Satran said while it is unlikely the Fargo track will see a dozen racing dates in 2013, he is hopeful Fargo can expand on the successful 2012 season.

“If I was going to make a prognosis now, I’d be looking at six to eight days,” Satran said last week. “It’s all based on money.”

Race funding is generated by taxes on account deposit wagering and then divided into purse money or promotions. Account deposit wagering is when a person deposits money in an account using a wagering hub licensed by the commission. The money in each account is then used to pay for race bets that can be made in person, by telephone or online, and companies operating the hubs are taxed.

In 2011, about $112 million was wagered through account deposit wagering companies licensed in North Dakota, generating about $380,000 in tax income for the commission.

HRND submitted a $220,000 request for 2013 purse money and a $300,000 promotion fund application.

ORDA is requesting $192,000 in purse funds and $174,000 from the promotional fund.

As of September, Satran said the commission has $119,000 in its promotion fund which can be used for general operations of a track and $93,000 in purse money.

“(2013 race dates) will be dependent on tax revenue presently what we have and what’s generated from now until he end of February,” Satran said.

In Fargo, Satran has estimated a day of racing costs about $20,000. For the 2012 meet, the racing commission contributed $89,000 and wagering companies donated around $75,000 to help host the four days of races – with some of that going toward prize purses.

Winston said the commission may grant a number of race dates in 2013 for the tracks on Thursday but a decision of funding would likely be delayed until a later date.

Horse Race North Dakota President Wes Heinert could not be reached for comment.

The North Dakota Racing Commission will meet at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Bismarck Public Library, 515 N. 5th St.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530

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