Belterra Park will open its 2015 live race meet May 1 but it will do so without a contract with the Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association for video lottery terminal revenue.
Belterra Park, the former River Downs, began operating VLTs about a year ago, and under Ohio statute was to have a deal with horsemen in place within six months of the VLT launch. In the meantime, the statutory minimum of 9% for purses has been placed into an Ohio State Racing Commission escrow account and is being used to supplement purses.
Because its VLT revenue hasn't met projections, Belterra Park, owned by Pinnacle Entertainment, will reduce overnight purses from last year, its first year of operation after River Downs was rebuilt. Ohio stakes purses and purse supplements, however, are up from 2014.
Ohio HBPA executive director Dave Basler told the OSRC April 28 the two parties have exchanged updated contract drafts, but there are a few outstanding issues. One of them involved Pinnacle asking the horsemen's group to agree to a VLT cut lower than 9%, but OSRC chairman Robert Schmitz said that would violate the statute, so it's off the table.
The Ohio HBPA is seeking a 10-year contract with Belterra Park along the lines of those it has with ThistleDown Racino and Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course. The lack of a deal won't impact the Belterra Park race meet, which runs through early October.
Belterra Park general manager Kevin Kaufman said the facility has recovered from the Ohio River flood in March. The facility is located adjacent the river near Cincinnati, and most of the racing surfaces and barn area were under water.
Kaufman said the new turf course, which was planted in 2013 but not used last year, has a fine appearance but has taken so much water its use may be delayed. The first condition book lists grass races in mid-May, but Kaufman said that may be pushed back a month to ensure the course is ready for racing.
In addition, Kaufman said the dirt surface was reconditioned after horsemen expressed concerns last year. Because of construction related to the VLT casino and parking lots, the original dirt and turf surfaces at River Downs were moved toward the barn area, which required new surfaces.