04/10/2003 11:00PM

Poker ruling for Louisiana horsemen

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Reversing an appeals court decision, the Louisiana Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that Fair Grounds and Louisiana Downs must pay horsemen a greater portion of revenue generated in the last 10 years by video poker machines at the tracks. The ruling could have a serious impact on the tracks, which might owe horsemen as much as $100 million.

Video poker came to Louisiana racetracks in 1993, and in 1994 the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association filed a suit claiming that the tracks were taking too many deductions from the poker machines, depriving purse accounts of revenue. A district court ruled against the tracks before the appellate court's reversal.

In Wednesday's unanimous ruling, the state's supreme court backed the horsemen and remanded the case to district court to determine damages to be awarded.

While other tracks have reached settlements with the horsemen on the issue, Fair Grounds and Louisiana Downs hoped to win the case in court.

"Obviously, we're disappointed," said Bryan Krantz, general manager of Fair Grounds. "We've done nothing more or less than follow the procedures outlined to us by the regulatory body, in this case the state police. I'm not sure what caused them to re-examine the structure now."

Krantz said he didn't have specific figures on how much the ruling might cost the two tracks, but said he understood the sum to be "on the magnitude of $75 to $100 million."

Krantz said Fair Grounds would seek a re-hearing with the supreme court. "This thing really isn't over," he said.