06/11/2003 11:00PM

Nelson's license in limbo


AUBURN, Wash. - The Washington Horse Racing Commission voted Thursday to suspend rather cancel the license granted to Eric Nelson, the would-be operator of Playfair Race Course in Spokane, Wash.

Nelson, a Las Vegas-based developer, had earlier announced that he would not run a live meeting this year at Playfair, and in a letter dated June 4 he asked the racing commission to rescind his license. Instead, the commission voted to suspend the license in order to maintain its regulatory authority over Playfair until outstanding issues are resolved.

Those issues include the transfer of funds accumulated for purses, breeder and owner awards, and payment of any outstanding bills. The commission will ask Nelson to submit an independent audit of the track's finances.

Nelson's attempt to resurrect Playfair, which has not operated since 2000, faltered when he was unable to agree with horsemen on a long-term contract or gain concessions from the track's leaseholder, Appleway Leasing, Inc. He closed the track's simulcast operations, which began in January, on May 13.

* The state legislature adjourned Wednesday night without acting on two bills that would have abolished the state's racing commission.

* Gov. Gary Locke filled one of two vacancies on the racing commission with the appointment of Gary Christianson, former head of the state Health Care Authority. Locke also reappointed commissioners Hartly Kruger and Ralph Vacca to six year terms.