03/22/2004 1:00AM

Court sets Fair Grounds debt

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A Louisiana district court judge has ruled that Fair Grounds owes its horsemen $89 million in proceeds from video poker machines dating back to 1993.

The judgment, which followed a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, puts a precise figure to the amount that Fair Grounds owes its horsemen. The amount had previously been estimated in a range between $75 million and $100 million.

Ken Dore, an attorney for Fair Grounds, said Monday that the track would appeal the decision to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Baton Rouge, La. Dore said that Fair Grounds did not believe that the court should have applied the ruling retroactively, and that the state should also be held liable for misinterpreting the applicable statute.

Last September, Fair Grounds filed for bankruptcy in order to protect itself from the legal judgment. The track's bankruptcy lawyer, Doug Draper, is expected to file a reorganization plan on Monday.

"I don't believe this judgment is any fork in the road," Draper said. "It's a configuration we had planned for."

Bryan Krantz, the president and owner of Fair Grounds, also said the judgment was not unexpected. "All of our strategies up to this point have been taken with this potential outcome in mind," Krantz said.

Fair Grounds' reorganization plan is being closely watched by several parties interested in buying the track. Draper has previously said that there are "six to eight" groups seeking to buy all or part of Fair Grounds, in a deal that could include selling the horsemen's debt to a third party.