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One step closer to ending greyhound racing in Rhode Island

October 23, 2009 |  5:37 pm


A financially troubled slot parlor seeking bankruptcy protection will pay $5 million as it attempts to end the last greyhound races in Rhode Island because the sport is costing the track money, attorneys said Friday.

UTGR Inc., the owner of the Twin River gambling hall, has agreed to pay the Rhode Island Greyhound Owners Assn. $2 million to end racing at the track if the restructuring plan is approved by a federal judge, according to court documents. The dog owners would receive an additional $3 million if Twin River successfully emerges from bankruptcy.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Arthur Votolato was expected to consider the plan at a Nov. 17 court hearing.

Twin River filed for bankruptcy protection in June as its owners struggled to repay a half-billion dollars in debt taken to buy and renovate the facility. State officials have closely monitored the case since Twin River's slot machines are the third-largest source of state income. They are expected to generate about $239 million this year, or 8% of all income raised by the state.

"If the settlement agreement is approved, it completes a key step towards enhanced financial viability of the facility, helping to preserve key revenue for the state of Rhode Island," Twin River spokeswoman Patti Doyle said in a written statement.

Twin River, which began as a horse track in the 1940s, is the last venue in the state to offer greyhound racing. Dog owners wanted to keep the races but eventually agreed to the settlement, said their spokeswoman, Jennifer Bramley.

"In light of the bankruptcy, we believe this settlement to be a fair and appropriate agreement," she said.

Gov. Don Carcieri, a Republican, helped negotiate a bankruptcy plan that would allow Twin River to restructure and continue operating. As part of the deal, Carcieri asked state lawmakers to repeal a law forcing Twin River to offer 125 days of greyhound racing. Wagering on the races has plummeted from $150 million in 1990 to $13 million.

Instead of ending the games, Democrats in the General Assembly passed a law expanding the racing season to 200 days. Carcieri vetoed the legislation, but Democratic legislative leaders have said they would seek to overturn his veto.

Sen. Frank Ciccone III, the bill sponsor, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

If lawmakers refuse to end greyhound racing, Twin River will use dog owners from New Hampshire willing to race for less money, Doyle said.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Greyhounds race on the Caliente track in Tijuana. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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