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    Posted byadmin on Thursday, December 14 @ 20:39:28 EST
    Contributed by admin

    By Laura Elder
    The Daily News

    Published December 14, 2006

    LA MARQUE - Gulf Greyhound Park officials, who say they're struggling to
    make ends meet, will go before state regulators in Austin today asking to
    significantly reduce the number of races offered at the track.

    The track operators also warned that Texas Racing Commission proposals to
    increase state license fees could force even more schedule cuts at the
    track, where attendance has dropped while costs are rising.

    Operators want the commission, which regulates the industry, to OK canceling
    greyhound races on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. At present, the track offers 12
    races on each of those nights.

    General manager Sally Briggs said Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the track's
    least profitable nights.

    If approved, the track's schedule would be 88 races a week next year,
    compared with 104 in 2006.

    In a Nov. 27 letter to the commission's executive secretary, Charla Ann
    King, Briggs said proposals by the commission to increase race-day fees,
    along with a new yearly license fee, would cause more problems for the

    "I am at a complete loss as to how the Texas Racing Commission thinks we can
    afford such extravagant additions to an already constrained situation,"
    Briggs wrote in the letter.

    The track's budget for live race-day fees it pays to the state was $237,430
    in 2006. But, if the commission adopted proposed increases, the fees would
    climb to $390,000. Add a proposal by the commission's staff to tack on a
    yearly "active license fee" of $25,000, and the track would have to budget
    $415,000 for fees this year, Briggs wrote.

    "If any of these plans are adopted, Gulf Greyhound Park will most likely be
    cutting our performance schedule even more drastically than we are forced to
    do now."

    Briggs did not make information about the track's revenues, losses or
    attendance available this week. But information provided by La Marque city
    officials showed a continued slide in attendance.

    The city receives 15 cents for each person who enters the park. In 2006, it
    received $39,626 from the racetrack, compared with $44,167 in 2005. So some
    264,173 people visited the racetrack in 2006, compared with 294,446 the year
    before, a 10.3 percent decrease in attendance.

    The track has made efforts to cut costs, including closing the fourth-floor
    Horizon Clubhouse, which accommodated about 1,800 people. Two years ago, the
    track also closed the second floor on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

    In 2002, the track had about 740 staff. It now has 319, Briggs said. The
    track reduced staff through attrition, not filling positions of employees
    who resigned, retired or were fired.

    "I'm proud to say that we have never laid anyone off," Briggs said Tuesday.

    Two years ago, the track imposed a hiring freeze. Employees no longer
    receive bonuses at the end of the year, Briggs wrote in her letter to the
    commission. And most have not received an increase in pay for several years,
    she said.

    "We have reviewed every cost in our budget to determine what could be done
    to 'make ends meet,'" Briggs wrote in the letter. "We have managed to run
    our operation with a 'skeleton' crew and yet are able to serve our customers
    in a positive manner."

    The track also is consider ing raising the grandstand price of admission to
    $2 from $1 to cover escalating costs and eliminating the parking fee to
    boost attendance, Briggs said. Neither of those measures needs approval from
    the commission.

    Overall, efforts to work more efficiently are paying off, Briggs said.

    "It's a tough industry all across the state," she said. "We are actually
    doing well and improving ways to cut costs and trying to be a little more

    The Daily News last week filed a request under the Texas Public Information
    Act with the commission for financial information about the track. Officials
    with the commission this week said attorneys must review that request and
    did not provide the information.

    Gulf Greyhound Park, which offers greyhound racing and pari-mutuel wagering,
    opened in 1992 to much fanfare. But it has been unable to reverse downward
    trends in attendance and revenue.

    Dog tracks are up against horse racing facilities in Texas and other forms
    of gambling, including the lottery and Louisiana casinos.

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