A video gambling bill many insiders see as crucial to the survival of Hollywood Park racetrack has stalled in the state Legislature and could be dead.
The development increases the likelihood that the 237-acre Inglewood site will be sold, razed and turned into a mixed-use development, along with the adjacent Great Western Forum, which went on the block in January.
The bill's likely demise is another setback in what appears to be the last-ditch efforts to keep the track open. An initiative that would have legalized slot machines at the racetracks and provided Hollywood Park with crucial added revenue was soundly defeated 18 months ago.
Inglewood mayor Roosevelt Dorn thinks time may be running out for the track and that development wouldn't be such a bad idea.
"My position has been the land is too valuable to leave it as is if the racetrack isn't producing as it should produce," he said. Even if the track does turn itself around, Dorn said some development on the property is still a good idea.
Nonetheless, Roosevelt said he "whole-heartedly" supports the bill. "The fact is that if that were to pass it would be a great boon for the race track and the city."
Feeling the squeeze
Heading the effort to keep the track open is Rick Baedeker, senior vice president of governmental affairs for Bay Meadows Racing, a division of the Bay Meadows Land Company. The firm, which specializes in commercial, residential and mixed-use developments, purchased Hollywood Park in 2005 and at that time committed to keep racing there until 2008.
"I grew up here and had the thrill of working at this track with all of the great people who put on the show each day," said Baedeker, who was president of Hollywood Park from 1999 through 2005. "And I, like so many, love the game. I'd hate to see it close. I take it personally."
Baedeker said his company could extend its commitment to horseracing at the track, but admitted that the writing may be on the wall without the new revenue the video gambling bill would provide. Declining interest in the sport and the onset of new online gaming options for bettors has put an extra squeeze on the track, which has struggled financially for years and suffered by comparison with Arcadia's Santa Anita Race Track.
Assembly Bill 2409, proposed by San Francisco's Leland Yee, would permit pari-mutuel machine wagering on the results of archived horse races from years past. Bettors wouldn't know the horse, the track, or most of the past performance information they were wagering on. Baedeker said that the proposed 1,850 video gambling machines could generate $300 million for the seven tracks on the bill. That estimate is based on machines making $100 a day, although experts say they can make up to $300 a day. The legislation would earmark 30 percent of that money to boost track purses, in an effort to get top horses, trainers and jockeys back to California.
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