Cherokee Nation buys Blue Ribbon Downs
12/14/2009 9:27:00 AM
 
The sun sets at Blue Ribbon Downs in Sallisaw, Okla., which Cherokee Nation
Entertainment bought from the Choctaw Nation in December. (Photo courtesy of
Choctaw Nation)
The sun sets at Blue Ribbon Downs in Sallisaw, Okla., which Cherokee Nation Entertainment bought from the Choctaw Nation in December. (Photo courtesy of Choctaw Nation)
By Jami Custer Staff Writer TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Entertainment officials on Dec. 10 announced that they closed a deal with the Choctaw Nation to purchase Blue Ribbon Downs, a horse racing track in Sallisaw. The property consists of nearly 100 acres in Sequoyah County and is located near Interstate 40 and Highway 64, two miles west of the Cherokee Casino Sallisaw, which CNE operates. “We had an opportunity to purchase property that is within our tribal jurisdiction so we always closely consider that, and see it as a wise business decision to take advantage of that any time we can,” CNE CEO David Stewart said.The BRD purchase means CNE now owns two horse racing tracks. The other is Will Rogers Down in Claremore. CNE officials stated in a press release that there are no “immediate plans” for BRD. In a Dec. 14 meeting, CN administration officials said the property was purchased for the real estate and assets and that they would not reopen it as a horse track. Principal Chief Chad Smith said there was no economic viability for the property as a race track.
According to the Sequoyah County Clerk’s Office, the tribe bought the property for approximately $2.5 million. CNE’s purchase of BRD includes land, facilities and equipment.
 
“The purchase is also an opportunity for us to utilize some of the equipment at Will Rogers Downs, which will provide some needed upgrades at that facility,” Stewart said.CNE had planned to purchase the property in 2003 at a sheriff’s auction. However, a Choctaw Nation-owned business bought it for $4.25 million a day before the auction.The Choctaws put the property up for sale more than a year ago. Claiming financial problems they ended their six-year operation of BRD, which included horse racing and electronic gaming, in November after the track’s fall racing dates concluded. BRD began racing in the early 1960s. In 1984 it became the state’s first track to offer pari-mutuel racing. However, the track has a history of financial struggles. Not only did the Choctaws experience financial problems with it, but past owners did as well. The track has been in bankruptcy twice – in 1997 and 2002.“The Choctaws did an excellent job in trying to make the track profitable,” Stewart said. “As owners of a track in Oklahoma, we understand the economics of the industry.”In 2008, the Choctaw Nation chose not to renew its license with the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission, signaling the closure of the track. BRD is now considered an unauthorized gaming facility. The Cherokee Phoenix contacted the Choctaw Nation for comment regarding the sale, but was referred to the CNE press release. Reach Staff Writer Jami Custer at (918) 453-5560 or jami-custer@cherokee.org
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