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Emerald Downs, Muckleshoot tribe form partnership, boost purses


August 14, 2004     E-mail this page to a friend!

Emerald Downs and the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, landlord of the Auburn, Washington, racetrack and operator of the state's largest casino about ten miles away, have formed a partnership, with the tribe to invest more than $1.6-million in daily purses and a vocational training program for grooms in 2004 and '05.

The investment of the tribe, which in December 2002 purchased the 167-acre property on which Emerald Downs sits for $73-million, will boost Emerald purses by 15% effective August 19. The daily average will be raised from $93,000 to $104,000 for the remaining 20 days of the 90-day meet, which began April 16 and ends

September 20. Average daily purses next year are expected to be $106,400. Purses for bottom-level claimers increases from $4,550 to $5,100 and takes purses for the top allowance horses from $18,900 to $22,300. The new figures represent the highest purses in Emerald's eight-year history.

"This is by far the best thing that has happened to this industry since we cut the ribbon and opened our doors on June 20, 1996," said Ron Crockett, president of Emerald Downs, which is owned by Northwest Racing Associates.

The purse increase comes a little more than a month after account wagering was legalized by the state.

The financial commitment of the Muckleshoots represents a means toward taking over ownership and operation of the track. The tribe
attempted to buy Spokane's now-closed Playfair Race Course in 1996 and '97 but was rebuffed by the Washington Horse Racing Commission with support from Emerald officials.

While nothing in the partnership is stated regarding the Muckleshoots taking over ownership and operation of Emerald Downs, Daniels said he is optimistic his tribe could buy out investors some day.

"We could do it, if we knew how to run the track," said Daniels. "If we were buying out the shareholders, we could do it.
Daniels added that after investing $73-million into the Emerald property that the tribe had to protect its investment, thus it was willing to infuse money into the purse pool to stimulate the state's racing industry.

"We wanted to ensure that there was horse racing here," he said. "Eventually, with the tribe taking over the track, we wanted to use this as a tool to economic development.

"If business fails, it's not a good thing," Daniels said.

The Muckleshoots will also establish a groom school at Emerald for tribal members and will have title sponsorship on Washington Cup Day on September 19 as a result of the partnership.
Emerald Downs, which has 51 years left on its lease of the property, hopes to add an extra month of racing in 2005 for a total of 101 racing dates from April 15 to October 16. The dates would need