Updated on 11/16/2014 1:25AM

Emerald Downs sold to Muckleshoot Tribe


AUBURN, Wash. – Emerald Downs has been sold to the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Emerald and tribal officials announced Thursday. While no terms were revealed, the Muckleshoots will assume full control from Northwest Racing Associates, which has operated the suburban Seattle track since its opening in 1996.

Acquiring Emerald Downs has long been rumored as a possible next step for the Muckleshoot Tribe. The tribe has been Emerald Downs’s landlord since 2002, when it acquired the 157-acre property, and has contributed more than $11 million in Emerald Downs purse enhancements since 2004.

The pending sale fuels speculation that the Muckleshoot Tribe will seek permission to install casino-style gambling at Emerald Downs. The tribe already operates the bustling Muckleshoot Casino, the state’s largest tribal casino, about five miles southeast of Emerald.

Muckleshoot spokesman Rollin Fatland declined to comment on the tribe’s long-range plans for Emerald Downs. Under current state law, the Emerald site would have to be converted to trust land before the tribe could open a casino there – a potentially lengthy process that requires federal approval.

Virginia Cross, the Muckleshoot tribal council chair, said Emerald Downs can be “an important part of our economic development program.”

“The tribe’s longstanding support of the state’s Thoroughbred racing industry continues with this transaction,” Cross said in a statement. “It is the tribe’s goal to keep the … industry as a viable part of our state’s economy. Emerald Downs sits in the center of the tribe’s historical homeland, and this transaction makes it an important part of our economic development program.”

Doug Moore, executive secretary of the Washington Horse Racing Commission, said rumors of a sale had been percolating since late summer.

“I’m surprised, but not shocked,” Moore said of Thursday’s announcement. “I’ve been aware for a couple of months that this has been in the works. There have been rumors like this floating around for years. The Muckleshoots have been partners in racing for several years, and by all indications, they are willing to invest in horse racing’s future. I think it’s nothing but a positive for the industry.”

The transaction is expected to be complete in 60 to 90 days. Emerald Downs has already announced plans for a 70-day meeting in 2015. The barn area is scheduled to open in February.

“As far as the state is concerned, it’s business as usual,” Moore said. “They will have to go through the licensing process just as any other group would. We’ll start that process as soon as we can schedule a meeting with the Muckleshoot Tribe.”

Track employees were told their jobs are secure.

“We’ve been told it will be business as usual, and to prepare for the 2015 season,” said Vince Bruun, Emerald Downs’s director of media relations. “Management will be the same.”

Ron Crockett, the driving force behind the building of Emerald Downs, will serve as a consultant to the new owners during the transition before stepping aside as track president after 19 years.

“My goal has always been to preserve this important industry,” Crockett said in a statement. “I have accomplished that goal and this is a now good time for the Tribe to step in and bring Emerald Downs to the next level.”



russell More than 1 year ago
Yakima and Playfair. Hysterical. I saw people betting those tracks and I shook my head. I'd bet on a greyhound or harness race before that garbage.
russell More than 1 year ago
I was actually born in this town but moved to NY when i was a toddler. I still have family in the area. I went to Emerald Downs about 5 times in 1997 and 1999. It's actually a very nice facility. Much nicer than Aqudump. Yes, plenty of cheap horses but I played the simulcast tracks. I think I played 5 lives races in 5 days. Trying to handicap 5k MDCLMS is almost impossible. Youre better off betting your phone #. True story, my father and I were at Emerald and it was a 5K MDCLM. We were watching this race and this horse loses by at least 5 lenghts but 1/16 past the finish he was in front. I said dad we have to play him next start. Horse did squat next out.
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
don't mess with the muckelSHOOTS, they WILL get your money! lol
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If Crockett's goal was to preserve racing in Washington why did he immediately shut down Yakima Meadows and Playfair Racecourse in Spokane when Emerald Downs opened up? I'll tell you why because he didn't want any competition and he wanted to be King of the Hill. What he didn't understand was these tracks were vital to the health of horse racing in the state of WA and without them horse racing would decline in the state. Every year since the opening of Emerald Downs field sizes and purse money has steadily declined. It's been tough sitting back and watching this once vibrant sport slowly die in this state. Emerald Downs is a bush track compared to what Longacres once was.
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
Our horses are going to Japan and our tracks to the Indians. It's already happened here in south Florida. The Indians even took over Hard Rock, casinos are everywhere:( - JG
TRacingLifeMore More than 1 year ago
Slots do not save horse racing. Racing's problem is that no one seems interested in improving the product, rather than using some other means, such as slot machines, to band aid the problems with more money. But, if the racing product itself isn't improved, what's the point? You might as well just stick with the product that earned money then, which would be slots.
riddick More than 1 year ago
look at it as a temporary transition. I frequently attend Charles Town and Delaware Park. I disagree with you about Casinos. Game on Dude is never coming to CharlesTown without the slots. And I doubt Del Park could bring in Blind Luck, Harve De Grace without slot money. I do think slots will lose interest. Horse Racing whatever the solution to reach bigger pool sizes.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Go to any track that has a casino.You will find many many more people in the casino than the track.The average age of a true horse player has to be 60.No new blood.Poker slots and ant other form of fast action is where the 20 plus players are.The 60 plus when they were 20 only had Vegas and the track.Those days are over.50.000 crowds at the track happened almost every weekend.Now maybe 10 days a year accross the country.They are home betting on line.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Slots save horses is the new theme for racing.Better the MST than who knows who.All the smaller tracks need something other than racing to stay alive.
P Cerv More than 1 year ago
It smelled when Crockett ran it, this whole thing stinks now to high heaven! Casino for horses.......yeah, what happened to "integrity" ?