05/14/2003 11:00PM

Fair Grounds gains on slots

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The Louisiana State Senate narrowly approved legislation Wednesday that could bring slot machines to Fair Grounds.

The passage was the first step in a long process for Fair Grounds, which has sought slots the last two years. The measure must still pass the state's House of Representatives. If it does, the matter will be put to a referendum in Orleans Parish. If the referendum passes, Fair Grounds must undergo an extensive licensing investigation by the Louisiana State Police.

Bryan Krantz, president of Fair Grounds, said he hopes the bill could move to the house as early as next week. Two years ago the slots bill passed the house but failed in the senate.

Fair Grounds is the only one of four state racetracks in Louisiana that has not been approved for slot machines. Delta Downs in Vinton has operated a slots parlor for more than a year and had its purses soar this season. Louisiana Downs in Bossier City is close to opening a new casino, while Evangeline Downs in Lafayette has broken ground on a facility that will include slots.

Fair Grounds says it needs a slots parlor to generate purses to compete for horses with Delta Downs, which runs a meet concurrent with Fair Grounds. Both the handle and purse structure at Fair Grounds declined the last two seasons.