Grants to race tracks shrink to match dwindling coffersHorse Race North Dakota will trim back the length of its summer racing season at the Fargo track after the state Racing Commission granted it half the amount of promotion funds it requested for this year.
By: Janell Cole, N.D. Capitol Bureau
BISMARCK — Horse Race North Dakota will trim back the length of its summer racing season at the Fargo track after the state Racing Commission granted it half the amount of promotion funds it requested for this year.
Both Horse Race North Dakota and the group that sponsors racing at Belcourt saw their requests drastically trimmed during Monday’s meeting.
The Fargo group sought $350,000 for the 2008 season and the Belcourt group that operates Chippewa Downs sought $160,000 from the promotion fund. The commission instead awarded a total of $200,000 from the promotion fund, with Fargo to get $169,000 and Belcourt $31,000.
For last year’s racing seasons, the commission awarded the Fargo track more than $1 million and the smaller amounts to the Belcourt track and other horse- and race-related organizations.
The commission on Monday also cut a request for a state subsidy to boost jockeys’ payments in Fargo races from $4,100 to $2,000 and also cut the tracks’ requests for funds from the commission’s purse fund and breeders’ fund.
Jim Tilton, president of Horse Race North Dakota, said this summer’s race meet will begin Aug. 1 and take place every weekend, ending Sept. 1. Before Monday’s meeting, the track had been planning to start racing on July 25.
It will also have harness racing Sept. 12-14.
Chippewa Downs at Belcourt will race seven days: Weekends in June beginning June 7 and ending June 23.
All the money that goes into the commissions’ funds comes from taxes assessed on horse and dog racing wagers placed at several off-track betting locations.
The commission and its special funds were established by the Legislature in the 1980s to create and support a horse racing industry in the state, but its funds have been dwindling precipitously since mid-2003, when high-volume bettors fled the state during investigations into the operations of a Fargo simulcast provider.
Commission Chairman Jim Clement worried that cutting back on subsidies to the horse tracks could be so steep it prevents the tracks from holding races at all.
But commissioners also aim to stretch their diminishing resources out as long as possible.
As of Jan. 1, the breeders’ fund, which rewards horsemen in the state for raising winning horses, had $742,784; the purse fund, which awards prizes to jockeys and owners of winning horses, had $917,610 and the promotion fund, which helps the tracks sponsor racing seasons, had $556,131. The amounts have been declining since 2003.
Also at Monday’s meeting, other horse racing groups and sponsors of off-track betting sites in Grand Forks, Williston, Bismarck that wanted small amounts from the promotion fund to advertise and develop racing and betting were denied funds entirely. Those requests ranged from $860 sought by the North Dakota Association for the Disabled to $65,000 requested by the Fair Circuit Horse Racing Assoca9tion.
Cole works for Forum Communications Co.,
which owns The Jamestown Sun