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Wendy Reuer, Published December 01 2012

Fargo horse track could have nine days of racing

FARGO – The North Dakota Horse Park here could have up to nine days of horse racing in 2013.

The state Racing Commission granted nine days to the Fargo track last week in Bismarck but deferred an award of funding until a February meeting, Racing Director Winston Satran said.

Wes Heinert, president of Horse Race North Dakota, which operates the Fargo track, is pleased with the number of days allowed for a 2013 meet, which is expected sometime between July 26 and Aug. 18.

“When they do determine the amount of funding they are going to give us, then we can go ahead and determine how many of the nine days we can use,” Heinert said.

Horse Race North Dakota requested 12 days of racing for 2013, $220,000 in purse money and $300,000 in promotion funds.

Satran said a funding decision was delayed until February, when final deposits from tax funds are known.

Funding for the state’s two horse-race tracks is generated by taxes on account deposit wagering and then divided into purse money or promotions for the tracks.

Account deposit wagering is when someone 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.

“We’ll see how much money we can fund per day or they can raise money to fund each day themselves,” Satran said.

Before a four-day meet in July, the Fargo track was shuttered for two years due to mounting debt that included nearly $2 million still owed to the city of Fargo for construction of the track.

A 2013 assessment payment of about $135,000 was scheduled to be due in 2013.

The racing commission is allowed to contribute funding for meet operation and purse money but not track debt.

Horse Race North Dakota received a break last Monday when the Fargo City Commission agreed to defer 2013 and 2014 assessment payments.

Heinert said he has yet to receive official word from the city but believes the delay will allow HRND to build a savings for future payments.

“We could make the (2013) payment to them, but what it would do is thwart our ability to run a meet,” he said. “Any meet we run, we’ll have to start out with $100,000 in the bank.”

The racing commission allocated $89,000 for the 2012 Fargo meet, which generated a $120,000 profit. The majority of operation funding was received as donations from out-of-state gambling companies.

Heinert said the Fargo track will likely benefit in 2013 from similar donations.

The horse park is considered a nonprofit organization.

The racing commission also awarded Chippewa Downs in Belcourt nine race days in 2013, Satran said.

The race track asked for 10 race days and about $371,550 in funding.


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