10/21/2014 3:29PM

Fair Grounds ordered to reinstate purses

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The Louisiana State Racing Commission has instructed Fair Grounds to restore $2.7 million in purse cuts the New Orleans track intended to apply to the upcoming 2014-15 Thoroughbred racing season.

Fair Grounds intended to remove the money from the purse account and place it in escrow pending resolution of a lawsuit filed by Quarter Horse interests contending Fair Grounds has failed to properly apply revenue earned from video poker machines it operates to purses at the track’s Quarter Horse meet.

Seeking protection in case the suit succeeds, Fair Grounds last month announced it would reduce its overnight purses for the 2014-15 season by about $700,000 while trimming $2 million from the stakes schedule, holding those funds in an escrow account.

But last week, according to LSRC executive director Charles Gardiner, the LSRC sent Fair Grounds a motion to show cause, asking Fair Grounds to prove it had legal standing to withhold the purse money, and in a meeting Tuesday in New Orleans, the LSRC determined Fair Grounds lacked that standing.

The commission directed Fair Grounds and its parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., to restore the purse cuts, issue amended condition books for the meet, and announce the changes in a press release.

Fair Grounds officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment in the LSRC decision, and Gardiner said he did not know how Fair Grounds and CDI intended to respond.

The LSRC decision comes one day before a civil district court judge in New Orleans will hold a status conference on the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of a group of Quarter Horse horsemen. The commission’s directive to CDI suggests the regulatory body does not believe the suit has merit, and the Louisiana HBPA also stands against the suit. Fair Grounds began conducting a brief late-summer Quarter Horse meet only because it was required by the legislation that granted the track permission to operate a slots parlor.