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Wyoming Downs is back – again

Posted: Tuesday, Jun 11th, 2013

EVANSTON — Wyoming Downs will have racing in September, if all goes according to the plans of owner Eric Nelson. Crews are at work on the facility and things are getting set.

Nelson said dates of Sept. 13 and 14 have been applied for through the Wyoming State Racing Commission, and he expects approval. With repairs and refurbishing of the facility, there simply wasn’t enough time for all the dates Nelson wanted to have races during the 2013 season.

But 2014 looks to be a different matter, he indicated. Nelson has applied for 16 dates in 2014, giving Evanston and the surrounding area a chance at seeing a substantial amount of horse racing for the first time since 2009.

In May 1985, Richard Sims and his partners opened the racetrack 10 miles north of Evanston, called Wyoming Downs. But in February 1989, Heartland Federal Savings of Oklahoma began foreclosure proceedings against the track. In April of that year, Joe Joyce, a well-known horseracing executive from New York and Chicago, purchased the Downs. In September 1998, Joyce retired and sold the Downs to Eric Nelson, a Las Vegas-based businessman.

In September 2006, Nelson sold the racetrack to Wyoming Entertainment LLC, whose chief operating officer was Eric Spector. In July 2009 Spector closed the Downs after a short, lack-luster season, and Nelson purchased the track at public auction for $450,000 in Dec. 2011.

In February 2013, Nelson announced his intention to reopen the track after the Wyoming Legislature passed a historic racing bill allowing pari-mutuel betting within the state through the State Racing Commission. Finally, on May 7, the Uinta County Commissioners approved Resolution 13-08, allowing pari-mutuel, simulcast and historical wagering on horse races within Uinta County.

The season proposed for next summer runs July through August on Saturdays and Sundays, although there is a 16-day racing minimum required by the state of Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Commission rules and regulations, and no dates for 2013 have been confirmed. Evanston Off-Track Betting is up and running at Dunmar Inn on Harrison Boulevard, however.

“Everything is looking really good,” Nelson told the Herald in a telephone interview. “The track was built well, and is holding up. We have crews refurbishing it now. We’re excited for September.”

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