11/06/2012 5:26PM

Fair Meadows to cease live racing

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Fair Meadows in Tulsa, Okla., will cease live racing operations in 2013, but will continue to simulcast through at least the end of the year, track official Ron Shotts said. He said Fair Meadows is meeting with officials from Will Rogers Downs, which is in nearby Claremore, Okla., this week to discuss the prospects of Fair Meadows operating an offtrack betting parlor next year under the jurisdiction of Will Rogers.

The decision to end live racing at Fair Meadows, a five-furlong track that operates a mixed meet for Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses each June and July at fair grounds facilities in Tulsa, was made last Thursday when its board voted to pass a sponsorship agreement with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation that runs through 2019.

“We did a naming rights agreement with the Muscogee” tribe, Shotts said. “They have naming rights for one of the facilities on the fair grounds, and as part of that agreement we would discontinue live racing.

“It was simply a business decision on behalf of the board.”

Attendance and handle for live racing at Fair Meadows has declined sharply in recent times, Shotts said.

“There’s four Indian casinos within 12 miles of my racetrack,” said Shotts, “and since they began electronic gaming several years ago, we’ve seen live [ontrack] handle [drop] 95 percent, going from $600,000 a day in handle to $30,000 a day. And our costs have risen. It’s simple economics.”

Fair Meadows does not have gaming like other tracks in Oklahoma because it received payments from four tribes not to operate a casino. The revenues that helped fund purses of about $110,000 a card came from such sources as Muscogee Nation. George Tiger, principal chief of Muscogee Nation, said his organization would not be building a casino at the fair grounds in Tulsa.

Fair Meadows operated for 24 years. It is the second recent racetrack closing in Oklahoma behind Blue Ribbon Downs in November 2009.