Sponsored by Oregon Business

Looking for a pony payday

| Print |  Email
Saturday, November 01, 2008


PORTLAND It’s two minutes before post time for the first horse race of the season at Portland Meadows and the odds to win seem more favorable than betting on Wall Street.

Moments later the starting gate bell rings and the horses are off. It’s dreary outside on this early October day and rain has turned the track into a muddy slop. The horses stream past an odds scoreboard that resembles a stock exchange ticker.

The business of horse racing isn’t just rough in a bad economy; the Meadows, Oregon’s only racetrack, has to compete against the state lottery and Indian casinos for gambling dollars. On the opening day of the 2008-2009 season, while 401(k) plans were losing value and the unemployment rate was rising, racing managers were keeping their expectations modest.

“We just wanted the day to go off without a hitch,” says William Alempijevic, the track’s GM. Admission is free so the track gauges turnout by beer sales, the number of cars in the parking lot and how many racing programs are sold.

More important is the size of the day’s handle, industry jargon for how much money is wagered. On this day, the handle is just over $150,000, a 5% increase from last year’s opening day. But the kicker is that most of that amount is from out-of-state satellite wagering facilities, not from gamblers at the track. At-track betting was down 12% from last year, while out-of-state betting increased 18%.

Bets from outside of Oregon are precisely what Alempijevic hopes will keep the track in business, because horses run live there on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday in the winter when other tracks around the country traditionally are closed.

So far it’s worked since the new schedule was adopted three years ago. But the overall horse-racing industry is down about 5% this year, a dip Alempijevic blames partly on the economic crisis.

Betting on horses, like betting on stocks, can be a costly game. But in down times one looks for any sign of hope. In the fourth race a young Oregon-bred named Mystacallie, declared by the announcer as the “people’s horse,” won.

Just then, the rain let up a bit.


Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



More Articles


September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ben Kaiser holds his ground.


5 facts about the teaching profession in Oregon

The Latest
Thursday, October 08, 2015

Based on several metrics, Oregon has one of the lowest performing K-12 education systems in the country. Teacher compensation is part of the problem.


After the Orange Line

Linda Baker
Tuesday, September 08, 2015
090815-trimet-thumbBY LINDA BAKER

Alan Lehto, TriMet's director of policy & planning, shares a few thoughts on ride sharing and more nimble bus services.


Light Reading

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ask any college student: Textbook prices have skyrocketed out of control. Online education startup Lumen Learning aims to bring them down to earth.


New green wood building product takes off in Oregon

Thursday, September 10, 2015
091115-cltjohnson-thumbBY KIM MOORE

Oregon is set to become a hub of a new type of wooden building design as a southern Oregon timber company becomes the first certified manufacturer of a high-tech wood product, known as cross-laminated timber, or CLT.


Reader Input: School Choice

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015

Which of the following would be most effective in reducing the cost of operating a public university in Oregon?


Counterpoint: CLT not as green as people think

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
photo-flickr-glasseyes viewthymbBY GREGG LEWIS | OP-ED

The issue of green-washing remains a significant challenge to those of us who would like to see the building sector in this country do more than make unverifiable claims of sustainability. Transparency about the impacts of a given material is the only way to allow designers to make intelligent choices when selecting building products.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02