Horse-racing flap cries out for more study
BY World's Editorials Writers
Monday, December 17, 2012
12/17/12 at 2:39 AM
The latest actions of the Tulsa County fair board don't exactly inspire confidence - that is, if you can even understand what's going on. It's getting to the point we need a program to keep the players and the proposals straight.
Suffice to say that any deal to rename fairgrounds facilities that affects horse racing at the Fair Meadows racetrack needs a good bit more study before any final decision is made.
The fair board took action for the third time on Wednesday on a new naming rights agreement for what is now the QuikTrip Center. This time, the board deferred a decision to allow the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, which has been pursuing naming rights, to take a new proposal to its leaders.
This action comes on the heels of the fair board rescinding two previous votes that approved naming rights agreements with the tribe. Those two votes also included provisions that would end live horse racing at the fairgrounds race track, a decision that outraged horse-racing groups in this region.
The original naming rights agreement that has been rescinded called for the Creeks to pay $1.44 million a year for those rights. It also called for the end of live horse racing.
The proposed new naming rights agreement that has yet to be acted on has the Creek Nation paying only $140,000 a year - one-tenth of what was included in the original agreement - and even less than the $240,000 a year QuikTrip is now paying.
Um, we're no financial experts, but shouldn't we be trying to increase the public's share, rather than head the other direction?
It gets even more complicated. It turns out the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission approved two licenses earlier this year allowing Fair Meadows to hold live races in 2013, but those licenses never were signed and returned to the commission. But a racetrack official did ink deals with quarter horse and thoroughbred associations promising to hold races in 2013.
On Wednesday, the fair board voted to sign the licenses and send them on to the commission. It's expected the horse racing commission will approve those licenses, which means it appears horse racing will be back at Fair Meadows next year.
Also at issue is periodic payments that several Oklahoma Indian tribes make that benefit horse racing in the state, in exchange for keeping casino-style gaming out of racetrack facilities.
What's behind this flurry of confusing activity is the issue of costs. County leaders say horse racing is too expensive, and that a new naming rights agreement will help build financial stability. They also argue that whatever replaces racing would more than offset any economic loss that would result from halting racing. One has to wonder how they know that when we don't even know what would replace racing.
They may genuinely believe they're making good decisions, but the rest of us aren't convinced. Let's give all parties the chance to make their case, evaluate all options thoroughly, and then take a little time to make an informed decision. How's that idea for handling the public's business?
Original Print Headline: Whoa, Nelly!
Quarter horses race during a Derby Trial at Fair Meadows in 2009. Tulsa World file