Local News

Monday, Dec 17 2012 05:06 PM

Fair board continues to weigh options for satellite wagering

BY REBECCA KHEEL Californian staff writer rkheel@bakersfield.com

Satellite wagering at the Kern County Fair has lost more than $88,000 so far this year.

That's according to documents handed out the Kern County Fair Board's meeting Monday afternoon. The board continued its discussion of what to do with the floundering operation, bringing up the possibilities of moving it to another location on the fairgrounds or to Golden West Casino.

"We're losing money, and we're trying to find a way to stop doing that," said fair board member Jim Camp.

The last time satellite wagering generated a profit was in 2006, according to the documents. That year, it made $8,584.

This year, satellite wagering has lost $88,557.73. Expenses such as labor and utilities added up to $338,432.73, while revenue such as admissions and concessions only garnered $249,875.

Discussion of what to do with the operation has been ongoing for years since it started losing money, Camp said. The fair has to be self-sustaining because it no longer receives funding from the state, he said.

"We don't have anyone to fall back on," he said.

Still, board member Mark Salvaggio said the board is conscious of satellite wagering's contribution to life in Bakersfield. As such, he said he thinks it would be all right to keep it going even if it is losing money.

"An old term was used a lot today. That term was business decision. I think of a business decision as money, the economics, is it paying for itself? I do think that sometimes money should not be the bottom line," he said. "We have to look at what's good for the community."

One suggestion to keep satellite wagering alive that was brought up at November's board meeting is to move it to Golden West Casino. Mike Olcott, CEO of the fair, said Monday that he's talked with the casino and that it is interested in meeting for more discussion.

Another suggestion brought up Monday was to move the operation to another building on the fairgrounds, Building Four. Readying the building to hold satellite wagering, including repainting, asphalting a smoking area and building a kitchen, would cost a little less than $52,000, according to the documents.

Several members of the public spoke at the meeting in favor of keeping satellite wagering at the fairgrounds. Don Valpredo, a former commissioner of the California Horse Racing Board, said he goes to the fairgrounds for wagering a few times a month.

"It offers to the general public a means of socialization, a chance for wagering, it employs people," he said. "I hope you'll seriously consider keeping it going."

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