Some say casino gambling could bring crowds back to Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie.
Another thoroughbred horse racing season began Thursday at the track, but some businesses barely noticed. The parking lot of a nearby Super 8 Motel was nearly empty Thursday.
But Manager A.J. Patel said the motel saw significant business when the track first opened 12 years ago.
“It just seems like if fell off,” Patel said. “It doesn’t seem like there’s a track next door anymore.”
Jockey manager Larry Spraker, one of the few guests, said Texas horse racing just does not compete well with other surrounding states.
“The purses don’t compare with any place else we race,” he said. “Like Oklahoma -- right now they’re running for 300,000 a day. Because the purses are so much larger than Texas, (if) you come here, you work for nothing.”
Grand Prairie Mayor Charles England said he wants a casino built at Lone Star Park.
“I think it’s going to take gaming to make it what it ought to be and what it can be -- what it was when it opened 12 year ago,” he said.
But state law must be changed to permit casino gambling in Texas. It has not succeeded in the Legislature before, but supporters intend to try again in the 2011 legislative session.
“In today’s time and the economic condition we’re in, hopefully they’ll look real close at expanding gaming,” England said.
He said he would like to see a casino and a resort hotel beside the Grand Prairie horse track.
Patel said he supports the idea.
“I think as a whole, it would help everybody here,” Patel said.
The company that has applied to take over management of the Grand Prairie horse track is controlled by the Chickasaw Nation, which operates several casinos in Oklahoma.
In the meantime, the current manager of Lone Star Park is working on other ways to attract more racing fans.
The park will include popular music concerts at races this season. And it is working on ideas to increase the stakes next season.
“We want either a shorter meet so we can have more average purse per day, or we want more purse money,” said Drew Shubeck, Lone Star Park manager.
He said one plan is being negotiating with tracks in Houston and San Antonio. The tracks would coordinate race schedules to pool the stakes and conserve track resources.
“It would lower their daily cost to operate their facilities in Houston and San Antonio, and it would encourage a better flavor of horse racing here in North Texas,” Shubeck said.
Charlie Haverkamp owns a horse that ran at Lone Star Thursday and he trains Texas thoroughbreds at a farm in Gainesville. He runs horses in Oklahoma too, but said he supports Texas racing and wants to keep running his horses here.
“I want to see it get better from here on out,” he said. “If everybody leaves, we’re not going to have racing here in Texas. So we all need to just band together.”