Muckleshoots To Purchase Emerald Downs

Ron Crockett, longtime owner of Emerald Downs racetrack in Auburn, Washington, will sell the thoroughbred track to the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. No price was given. The tribe has owned the land the track is on since 2002. Observers believe the tribe will apply for federal trust status to bring in slots and other games.

A tentative agreement has been announced by Northwest Racing Associates to sell Emerald Downs racetrack in Auburn, Washington to the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. The tribe has owned the land the track is on since 2002. Sale negotiations have been ongoing for two years, and it’s expected to close in the next 60 to 90 days. No sale price was given.

Ron Crockett, owner of Northwest Racing Associates, said, “For the last 19 seasons, we’ve kept people employed and it needs something more now. I believe that the tribe will take it to another level. I don’t push them for answers on what that means, but as time evolves we’ll understand what that means.’’ Crockett, who will stay on as a consultant during the ownership transition, said Muckleshoot officials have assured him that the track’s 1,400-1,500 employees will keep their jobs. He said business is down 35 percent from when he first took over in June 1996.

Muckleshoot Tribal Council Chair Virginia Cross said, “The tribe’s longstanding support of the state’s thoroughbred racing industry continues with this transaction. It is the tribe’s goal to keep the thoroughbred horseracing industry as a viable part of our state’s economy. Emerald Downs sits in the center of the tribe’s historical homeland and this transaction makes it an important part of our economic development program.”

Some observers believe the Muckleshoots will offer concerts and other non-racing events at Emerald Downs to ease traffic and logistical problems at the tribe’s nearby White River Amphitheatre. In addition, the tribe may seek federal trust status from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, allowing certain gaming revenue to be tax-exempt. Owning both the land and the venue on it could make it easier to claim the site as “tribal land” and receive the tax exemption.

King County councilman Pete von Reichbauer noted, “Ron Crockett saved an industry and in the process, saved thousands of jobs that are directly or indirectly tied to Emerald Downs.’’ He said he hopes the Muckleshoots can add “new synergies’’ at the venue. “You cannot survive with an average age of 60. You have to find ways to take the demographics down with concerts and other activities.’’ Added Crockett, “It’s just time for the tribe to come in. I think the industry itself is healthy. Not as vibrant as it was for me on Day 1, but hopefully they can take it forward from here.’’