01/21/2005 1:00AM

Magna: Portland needs help


In separate meetings with horsemen on Wednesday and with the Oregon Racing Commission on Thursday, Magna Entertainment's chief counsel, Scott Daruty, said the future of racing at Portland Meadows is in jeopardy unless certain changes in the track's business environment are made.

Daruty said Magna has lost significant sums in each of the four seasons it has operated Portland Meadows, and that there is no reasonable prospect of turning the track's financial picture around without changes.

Daruty said the one essential change is that Portland Meadows must be allowed to conduct year-round simulcasting. Current state law allows tracks to simulcast only when their meetings are in progress. Since the closure of Multnomah Greyhound Park in December, however, Portland Meadows is the only major track operating in the state. Daruty said legislation to allow for the track to simulcast year-round needs to be passed before the current season ends on April 24.

Daruty said other changes sought by Magna include the elimination of a requirement that the track race at least 80 days per year, with at least three days of racing per week and nine races per day. He said Magna is also seeking a reduction or elimination of the tax the track pays to the state, which is 1 percent of handle plus the money from uncashed tickets, and a greater share of the money derived from the state's account-wagering hubs.

Dick Cartney, executive secretary of the Oregon division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said he could not imagine the horsemen's group objecting to Magna's request for year-round simulcasting.

"We understand that it's not good for anybody when the track loses money," Cartney said.