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Commission gives preliminary OK for gaming license

OKLAHOMA CITY – More than two years after expressing a formal interest in buying Remington Park, a subsidiary of the Chickasaw Nation won preliminary approval Nov. 19 for a 2010 racing and gaming license.

The Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission voted 8-0 to have the formal approval documents developed for Global Gaming RP LLC’s license – the last significant step before the group’s $80.25 million purchase of Oklahoma’s largest horse racing track can be completed.

Commissioners are expected to consider final approval at a special meeting in December.

John Elliott, the CEO of Global Gaming Solutions LLC, the parent company of Global Gaming RP, said all that remains should be procedural issues. He said he hopes the sale will be finalized so that Remington Park will transfer ownership from the bankrupt Magna Entertainment Corp. at midnight on Dec. 31.

“The track is an institution in Oklahoma,” Elliott said. “The horse industry is part of the fabric of this state.”

Remington Park, which cost $94 million to build, opened in 1988. Magna Entertainment bought it from the Edward J. DeBartolo Corp. for $10 million in 1999 and sunk $35 million into renovations after November 2004, when voters approved a ballot measure allowing a casino to be established at the track.

Proceeds from the casino, which opened in November 2005, have fueled higher purses for horsemen, which has resulted in higher-quality racing.

One prominent local thoroughbred trainer, Donnie Von Hemel, said Oklahoma horsemen are enthusiastic about having in-state ownership. The Chickasaw Nation is based in Ada, about 80 miles southeast of Oklahoma City.

“This is their first venture into racing, but their gaming history is very good,” Von Hemel said. “I think we’re all looking forward to it.”

Elliott said Global Gaming Solutions first discussed buying the track in November 2007, not long after Remington Park was placed on a list of possible Magna Entertainment properties that could be sold to relieve debt. The Canadian company, which is the largest horse track owner in the U.S., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection March 5.

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Delaware approved the sale of Remington Park in September.

Commissioners granted their preliminary approval of Global Gaming RP’s license application without much debate. William Brogden, an investigator for the commission, told the panel that background checks on the applicants “found them suitable” to receive the license.

“I was completely satisfied with the application,” commission vice chair Cassie Barkett said in making the motion for preliminary approval.

Elliott hopes to have 50 more gaming machines in place at Remington Park’s casino by Jan. 1, which would give the casino the maximum 750 gaming machines allowed under state law. He said Global Gaming RP also plans to invest quickly in improving the track’s aging infrastructure and amenities.

“It’s got a lot of untapped value,” Elliott said.

Another Chickasaw tribal subsidiary, Global Gaming LSP LLC, is applying for a Texas racing license as part of its $47.8 million purchase of Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, a suburb of Dallas.

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