Ditch the old schedule: Portland Meadows makes switch to Tuesday horse racing

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PORTLAND, Oregon — Portland Meadows will have live racing on Tuesday instead of Wednesday for the remainder of the season, a move to get more off-track wagering money.

Oregon's only commercial horse racing track also has races on Sunday and that won't change.

General manager Will Alempijevic said the abrupt switch was necessary because the money from bettors on the first four Wednesdays of the season was much less than expected. If the slump persisted, the track would have to cut purses and perhaps race dates.

Most wagers on horse races are made by people online or at off-track betting locations, and there were more than a dozen U.S. tracks competing for those dollars this past Wednesday. Portland Meadows was not the preferred choice for many handicappers that day and hasn't been throughout the fall.

"We don't have necessarily the most competitive product," Alempijevic acknowledged. "Other tracks have bigger purses and more popular horses and more popular jockeys and trainers. Horseplayers just gravitate toward those more common names."

Gamblers looking to bet on thoroughbreds on Tuesday afternoons in December will only have two or three tracks from which to choose, and one will be Portland Meadows. It's hoped that will lead to more wagers on races at the Delta Park oval.

"It essentially was a slam dunk for us and the horsemen and women to make the change," Alempijevic said.

The season is scheduled to end Feb. 10.

Portland Meadows opened in 1946, but has been operating under the threat of closure in recent times. Its future may rest with instant racing machines, expected to debut in January.

The machines resemble slots and take bets on actual horse races from the past. The old races are on video, but horse names are withheld so bettors can't know the winner in advance. Like live horse racing, it is a pari-mutuel form of gambling in which bettors wager against other players rather than the house.

Officials hope the revenue from instant racing will subsidize live racing and increase the size of purses for winning horse owners.

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