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January racing handle drops under Lien Games

BISMARCK -- Off-track betting in North Dakota fell off dramatically in the first weeks of 2004 as a new simulcast provider took over the transmission of horse and dog track signals to North Dakota betting parlors.

BISMARCK -- Off-track betting in North Dakota fell off dramatically in the first weeks of 2004 as a new simulcast provider took over the transmission of horse and dog track signals to North Dakota betting parlors.

Equipment snafus resulted in some of the 10 sites in the state being closed for days or weeks as Lien Games took over the simulcast business in the state from Racing Services Inc. Both are Fargo companies.

The amount bet ("handle") in all of North Dakota ranged from $360,000 to $564,000 per week in December, when RSI still had the state license, according to state Racing Commission records.

It then dropped to about $64,000 in the first full week of January under Lien Games' management, but has risen steadily since. The week ending Feb. 1 the handle almost cracked $100,000, missing that mark by only $8.

The state Racing Commission voted in December not to renew RSI's license after the company was indicted on federal charges of illegal gambling and money laundering. It also owes the state $6.5 million in back taxes.

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The commission granted the 2004 license to Lien Games on Dec. 22, giving the company barely a week to get set up. Some sites were left with no betting terminals after RSI removed the machines instead of allowing Lien to take over their leases.

State Racing Director Paul Bowlinger said further growth in handle may depend on the new providers luring some high-volume bettors, such as RSI had lured to the state the past several years.

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

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