06/21/2002 12:00AM

Northlands' Slots area expanding


EDMONTON, Alberta - Short-term pain for long-term gain. That was the message for racing fans who arrived at Northlands Park on opening weekend, only to find the main floor of the Spectrum blocked off.

Five hundred slot machines are being installed in that area in a $5.5 million face-lift for the grandstand. That will double the number of machines here, and revenue from the current machines has sent purses soaring during the past two years.

An attractive split in slots revenue provides a third to the horsemen, a third to the track, and the remaining third to the provincial government.

A media conference before Friday's opening revealed that horsemen are competing for an average daily purse pool of $105,000, highlighted by $1.625 million for a 32-race stakes schedule.

Les Butler, race manager of Northlands, said the record level of purses translates into increased competition and enticement for new stables from tracks such as Hastings Park in Vancouver.

Construction is on schedule for the main floor to be completed by the beginning of August, followed by converting the previous space occupied by 250 slots on the second floor into additional viewing areas and concession stands.

In the meantime, bettors can still make their wagers by passing through certain glass doors facing the tarmac. A new lounge will be featured on the main floor for punters and horsemen.

* Sunday's $18,800 allowance feature brings together a field of five older horses, including Highland Leader, Tyko Tycoon, and Robnroy, all of whom also had been nominated to Saturday's Journal Handicap.

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