07/03/2001 11:00PM

Playfair's future lies in hands of commission


AUBURN, Wash. - The Washington Horse Racing Commission is expected to announce by the end of the week on whether it will allow Playfair to race in 2002.

The commission held a two-hour hearing here Monday to determine whether Lilac City Racing Associates' license to operate Playfair should be revoked because the track violated conditions of the order granting its license in December 1999.

Also discussed were Lilac City's financial condition and its request to amend its 2001 racing dates.

The commission went into private deliberations following the hearing and reached a decision, which will be made public after a written order is drafted by the commission's counsel and approved by the commission.

Bruce Batson, executive secretary for the commission, presented evidence that Lilac City has violated the conditions of its license. Batson said Lilac City committed six violations, including dipping into the horsemen's purse account to pay operational expenses, failing to submit monthly and annual financial statements to the commission, revoking a supposedly non-revocable letter of credit and replacing it with a line of credit, misrepresenting the above matters to the commission, and failing to file forms with the Internal Revenue Service to gain nonprofit status.

To those charges, Lilac City president Bruce Wagar responded: "We're guilty."

Wagar said the Lilac City board of directors let the track's management get out of control, which resulted in most of the violations and contributed to Lilac City's financial losses, which Wagar put at $640,000 for 2001. He said Lilac City has reached an agreement with its horsemen that forgives part of its debt to the purse account and schedules repayment for the rest. He also said an auditing firm has been hired to prepare and submit annual and monthly financial statements in a timely manner.

Regarding Lilac City's current financial condition, Wagar said the association has reduced its overdue accounts payable to $78,000 and that it has $325,000 at its disposal. He said Lilac City will need $150,000 to $200,000 to open its 2001 meeting. He also submitted a budget that projects a profit of $240,000 for this year.

Pat Crowley, the commission's contract auditor, said Lilac City's losses for the 13 months it was in operation before Jan. 1, 2001, were $860,000. Crowley also expressed concerns regarding some of the projections made in Lilac City's budget for 2001.

Following Monday's meeting, Wagar explained how Lilac City intends to go from a loss of $640,000 in 2000 to a profit of $240,000 in 2001. He cited reduced expenses owing to a new lease that will lower rent for the track from $20,833 per month to $5,000; a new agreement with the horsemen that caps purses for the meet at $750,000; new and more efficient arrangements regarding accounting, marketing, and security; and a more compact racing season that will end two weeks earlier than last year. He also cited increased revenue owing to the passage of a bill that expands simulcasting during race meets in Washington.

At the Monday meeting, Wagar withdrew the track's request to race 40 days in 2002, Aug. 15 through Nov. 19, which would have created an overlap with Emerald Downs. Lilac City now wants to race 40 days, Sept. 16 through Dec. 2, which will shorten the meeting by two weeks while adding seven Fridays. If the latest amended date request is approved, Playfair will race four days a week - Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays - through most of its meeting.