03/24/2004 1:00AM

Player part of new ownership


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, which on Monday purchased Hastings Entertainment, and a local developer have formed a subsidiary of Great Canadian Gaming to operate Hastings racecourse. The developer, Peter Wall, will own 40 percent of the the new venture.

Great Canadian Gaming bought the racetrack from Woodbine Entertainment Group.

Wall has been heavily involved as an owner and breeder. He won the Grade 1 Pacific Classic with Missionary Ridge in 1992 and until recently bred and raced horses in British Columbia. Wall has also had tremendous success as a pick six player. In the early 1980's he hit two large pick six payouts at Hastings. Wall shared a third of a record $2.2 million pool, taking home over $730,000 in 1982, and also was the only winner of a pick six that paid $920,411 the following year.

Wall said he is hoping to recapture some of the excitement he remembers from that era.

"Right now I don't have any plans set in concrete, but I do have a lot of enthusiasm," he said. "I hope to meet with all of the people involved to see what we can do to get the people coming back to the races."

Great Canadian Gaming, a publicly traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange, owns seven casinos in British Columbia and four in Washington state. This is its first venture into horse racing.

"Hastings was a viable business in 2003, and 2004 also looks favorable," said Dale Peterson, the company's director of financial planning. "We think the current management team has done a good job of turning the industry around, and we'll support them in their vision for the future."

Although attendance and handle have grown since Woodbine took over Hastings in May 2002, Woodbine's chairman and CEO, David Willmot, cited frustration in moving the business to the level he had envisioned.

"We didn't purchase it to operate on a status-quo basis," said Willmot, "and we came to the conclusion that we would not be able to operate and develop it in the way we had anticipated."

Woodbine had planned to open seven teletheater wagering sites throughout the Vancouver area, but because of local regulations was not able to open one. There is also an application pending with the City of Vancouver to install 600 slot machines at Hastings, but that proposal has encountered stiff opposition, and the city council will not make a decision on the matter until June 8.

Details of the sale will not be released until it has been approved by the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch of the Government of British Columbia. It is expected to close by April 8.