10/16/2002 12:00AM

Texas okays Lone Star sale

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The Texas Racing Commission approved the sale of Lone Star Park to Magna Entertainment by a 7-1 vote Wednesday after Magna officials assured the commission that its account wagering business, XpressBet, would not take bets from Texas residents.

Lone Star, the premier track in Texas, is the 11th racing plant to be purchased by Magna, which also operates Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita.

Account wagering is illegal in Texas, and commissioners wanted assurances that phone and Internet bets from the state were not being accepted. The panel questioned Jim McAlpine, Magna's president, and attorney Ed Hannah, as well as Department of Public Safety officials, for about two hours at the meeting, held in Austin. Magna had accepted wagers through XpressBet earlier in the year from Texas residents, but told the panel that those accounts were closed in May. Some accounts were inherited when Magna acquired The Meadows, a harness track in Pennsylvania, and its account wagering service.

Magna announced plans to buy Lone Star for about $100 million in March. The deal was expected to close in the second quarter of 2002, but will now probably close next week. Magna purchased the track for $80 million cash, and the assumption of lease obligations of about $19 million. The city of Grand Prairie owns the track facility and its grounds and leases them to the operators of Lone Star.

* In other business, the commission approved a special bet-the-state wager for the inaugural six-race National Thoroughbred racing Association Great State Challenge at Sam Houston Race Park on Dec. 7. The bet is modeled after the All-Star Wager put on during the NTRA Jockey Championship.