The passing of Propositions 94-97, which give four Indian tribes a stronger hold on gambling in the state, was a blow to Hollywood Park, but not a knockout punch.
"We will continue to run the business of horse racing at Hollywood Park as though it will be carried on indefinitely," said Jack Liebau, the president of the Inglewood facility as well as sister track Bay Meadows in Northern California. "We're not going to run it as a lame-duck track. And we will apply for race dates in 2009."
However, Liebau said that doesn't mean that the approximately 250 acres where Hollywood Park sits won't eventually be developed with condominiums, shops and restaurants.
That's what the Bay Meadows Land Co. has been threatening to do since it purchased the racetrack from Churchill Downs Inc. in July 2005.
Now that threat becomes more of a reality.
"Racing alone cannot support the underlying value of the land," Liebau said.
Hollywood Park ownership held the belief that slot machines might be the answer to increasing the value. But now the Indian tribes will be allowed to add 17,000 slot machines to the 8,000 they already have in Riverside and San Diego counties.
"To me, playing slot machines is an aimless pursuit," Liebau said, "but you can't argue that a lot of people do it.
"We, as Hollywood Park ownership, will now have to try and improve our business in other ways.
"This does not mean that horse racing is not going to survive. But maybe it won't be the same as we now know it. There has to be structural changes."
Asked to name possible changes, Liebau said: "I'm not sure, but one thing might be to make racing less complicated. Now you have to be a puzzle solver to figure it out."
Liebau said nothing is certain, but the closing of Bay Meadows is more of a certainty than the closing of Hollywood Park.
He said the Bay Meadows meet that opened Wednesday and runs through May 11 probably will be the track's last major meet.
He added that the proper zoning specifications to develop the Bay Meadows property have been acquired, and those needed to develop the Hollywood Park site are being pursued.
Terrance Pancher, the head of the Stockbridge Real Estate Fund, which oversees the Bay Meadows Land Co., declined to comment through a spokesman.
His company was a major contributor to the campaign against the propositions, although about three-quarters of the $147 million spent by both sides came from the proponents.
"We were clearly outgunned, and in hindsight maybe we should have realized we were going to be outgunned," Liebau said.
However, he added, "If there is a silver lining, the huge expansion of gambling in the state shows that it is no longer viewed as taboo."