Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Bellmon Signs Pact for Comanche Track

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Bellmon Signs Pact for Comanche Track

Article excerpt

A tribal-state compact to allow the Comanche Indian Tribe to open a parimutuel horse racetrack near Lawton has been signed by Gov. Henry Bellmon and is pending approval by the Joint Committee on State Tribal Relations.

If approved by the committee, construction of the facility could begin immediately, said State Rep. Emil Grieser, D-Hobart, and a committee member. Grieser said a meeting had not been scheduled, but he expected one shortly.

"I don't see any bottlenecks in it (compact), from what I have read," Grieser said, adding that he expected the committee to ratify the compact.

State Sen. Enoch Kelly Haney, D-Seminole, who chairs the committee, declined comment through a spokeswoman.

The Comanches plan to build an $11-million track on the former site of Comanche Downs, a non-parimutuel track. The facility would be a one-mile oval that would seat between 5,000 and 6,000 customers.

Gordon Hare, executive director of the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission, said the tribe in January had planned 156 race days.

Tribal officials did not return telephone calls.

The track would be the first in the nation achieved by a tribal-state compact to offer both live and simulcast racing, Hare said. Three tribal facilities in California have negotiated compacts for simulcasts, he said.

The racetrack is permitted under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act which became effective last October. Oklahoma racing officials are worried about oversaturation of the market.

"I have the same concerns I have always had about over-saturation," said David Vance, general manager of Remington Park racetrack in Oklahoma City, through a spokesman.

"I am hopeful that the Comanches recognize the negative impact too many racing days can have on the economics of our industry. I hope they move with some degree of caution."

The Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission in January refused to regulate the Comanche track, at the request of the tribe and the governor, because of the variables involved, Hare said.

"The commission appeared to be hesitant to approve that resolution for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the number of race days at the facility would be totally out of the hands of the racing commission," he said.

The compact, signed by Bellmon on May 24, said the tribe has created a Comanche Horse Racing Commission to provide for the regulation of pari-mutuel betting according to the provisions of the Comanche Horse Racing Act. The Comanche commission would license the track employees.

"We're part of the executive branch, and we have a good relationship with the governor's office, so it was with fear and trembling as the result of that relationship that we declined to approve the governor's resolution," Hare said.

"However, the commissioners unanimously felt that it would be in the best interests of both the tribe and the state that the horse racing commission not participate in that, or provide supervision under the terms of that tribal state compact that was proposed to us."

Hare declined to comment on the final compact, which he had not seen. …

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