ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE
Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
For 15 years, off-road enthusiasts have brought their desert race cars to the Nevada-California state line, participating in SCORE International’s popular Primm 300. The next one had been scheduled for Aug. 26-28.
But organizers have moved the race to Mexico — depriving Primm of about $2 million in nongaming revenue that had propped up the financially stricken casino community.
At the heart of the decision: disagreement over how the racing organization and the local casino company should share a $41,300 increase in the cost of liability insurance.
Last year’s race drew 5,900 fans who spent $1.9 million on food, booze and hotel tabs — not to mention what they dropped at the tables and slots, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The race attracted international media and business executives because entrants came from Europe, Canada and Mexico.
The liability insurance dispute was tied to concerns after eight spectators standing along a race course were killed last August by a wayward racer at a loosely organized event in California’s Mojave Desert.
SCORE President and CEO Sal Fish said the dispute boiled down to $41,300, the difference between the $14,500 the organization paid last year for $2 million in liability insurance and the $55,800 the promoter said he would have had to pay for a $4 million liability policy that he said was demanded by the resorts.
“We asked them to meet us more than halfway on the cost and they wouldn’t do it,” Fish said of Affinity Gaming. “But we told them we aren’t closing the door on Primm, and if things change, maybe we’ll come back next year.”
While declining to confirm the insurance costs, Affinity offered to pay half of the policy, said Loren Gill, its executive vice president and regional general manager. Gill also said the demand for greater liability insurance came from “multiple parties” he wouldn’t name.
“We like being in the race business but it has to work for all parties involved,” Gill said Monday. “We’re not in the business of chasing off business, but they wanted us to pay all of it.”
Fish said the reason to have Affinity pay for most of the insurance increase was that it otherwise wouldn’t have been affordable for SCORE to race at Primm. He said the sanctioning body would have been forced to pass on the increased costs to the race teams in the form of higher entry fees. But because those teams operate on such tight margins, he said, it would have made it impractical for them to compete.
Gill said although the race brings good business, it wouldn’t have been enough to offset the costs to Affinity of shouldering the amount Fish asked the company to pay.
“We’re actually working very hard to meet with insurance companies to bring that race back to Primm Valley next year,” Gill said.
At the Primm course, Fish said, the closest spectators are permitted to come to the race cars is about 25 to 30 yards, separated by two rows of fences at a portion of the course where the vehicles are forced to slow down to speeds of 25 to 35 mph. No spectators were injured or killed in the previous 15 Primm races, he said.
“We’ve been doing this for 40 years and we are very professional,” Fish said of SCORE. “But no one wants to look at us that way. It’s unfortunate that we’re put in the same pot with an unsanctioned event.”
Affinity Gaming, previously known as Herbst Gaming LLC, assumed ownership and management of the Primm hotels late last year as a lender-led company that took over the assets of bankrupt Herbst Gaming Inc.