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Company seeking simulcast license

BISMARCK -- A second company has applied to provide simulcast horse races to charitable gaming sites in North Dakota, setting up competition for Fargo's troubled Racing Services Inc.

BISMARCK -- A second company has applied to provide simulcast horse races to charitable gaming sites in North Dakota, setting up competition for Fargo's troubled Racing Services Inc.

The state licenses one provider each year, and Racing Services has always been granted the license in the 14 years that pari-mutuel betting on simulcast racing has been legal. RSI provides simulcast signals to 10 sites in North Dakota.

Now Lien Games of Fargo, a longtime supplier of pull tabs and other materials to charitable gambling sites, wants to be that provider. Both RSI and Lien Games have applied to the state Racing Commission seeking the 2004 simulcast license.

"Lien Games Inc. believes it can bring the same level of integrity that charitable gaming industries ... have experienced to the North Dakota horse-racing industry," the application says.

Racing commissioners will have to decide which company gets the license during their December meeting.

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Racing Services, which has been managed by a court-appointed receiver since August, is at least $6.5 million in arrears on its state taxes and is under state and federal investigation.

The investigations began after the state racing director found the company had conducted almost $100 million in unreported wagers for a seven-month period ending last April.

Since then, professional bettors who used to wager millions of dollars on races every week in North Dakota have moved out. The weekly total bets have dropped from

$10 million last spring to barely $500,000 the past two months.

According to Lien Games' application, the state license is not the only thing the company proposes to wrest away from RSI. Lien Games lists an RSI executive, Michael Cichy, as its manager of operations in the event it wins the simulcast license.

Cichy is still working at RSI, where he has been in charge of the betting operations. He declined Tuesday to comment about the Lien Games application, referring all questions to Lien Games owner Ken Lien of Fargo.

A person who answered the phone at Lien's office said he is unavailable for comment until next week.

Ken Maloney, president of RSI, said he is aware of Lien Games' application but made no further comment about competition for the license. He said his focus is on assisting the court-appointed receiver, Wayne Drewes, in turning the beleaguered company around. He said he's optimistic about the future of the company.

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Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation of Mandan, which operates over a dozen charitable gaming sites, does business with both RSI and Lien Games. The foundation also offers off-track betting through RSI's simulcast service.

"Wow," said Tracy Potter, the foundation's executive director, of Lien Games' desire to take over the state's sole simulcast provider license.

Brent Brooks, gaming manager for Development Homes in Grand Forks, said last month that he would like to see a choice of companies or a different provider instead of RSI. Lien Games has been a licensed charitable gaming distributor for nearly 25 years, according to its application. Sole owner Ken Lien has served on gaming advisory boards for both Minnesota and North Dakota.

The application says the company believes horse racing "can experience significant growth through cooperative provider, charity and state relations, effective legislative actions, improved integrity and security of the wagering, player education and promotion."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830

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