01/16/2014 10:21AM

Longtime racing executive Bill Bork dies at age 80

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Bill Bork, a longtime racing executive who ushered in the industry era of racetracks marrying with slot machines, died Jan. 13 at the age of 80 in Reading, Pa., according to family members and the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, a racetrack trade group.

Bork worked at a dozen racetracks during his long career. He was most closely associated with Penn National Race Course and later its parent company, Penn National Gaming Inc., which was one of the first racing companies to diversify into casino gambling.

Penn National was a small publicly traded company in the early 1990s and is now a casino behemoth, operating 26 gambling facilities in 17 jurisdictions, including a Canadian province. Bork returned to the company in 1996 after 12 years at Ladbrokes, and he helped to steer the company into the casino world. He retired in 2001 as the company’s president, but remained somewhat active in racing in the years following his retirement.

Bork was a director of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations for 17 years and represented four different tracks during his tenure, Penn National, Detroit Race Course, Canterbury Park, and Golden Gate Fields. He was known for his pragmatic approach in considering solutions to racing’s problems.

Bork’s younger brother, Robert, who survives him, also was a racing executive, but is now retired and living in Houston. The two brothers were very close, and their families frequently vacationed together.