In Ohio, Jury Still Out on Account Wagering Revenue

The Ohio State Racing Commission Feb. 19 deferred action on a request from the Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association to withhold Thoroughbred signals that originate in the state from account wagering companies. It scheduled a hearing for March 1 to further discuss the issue.

In December, the Ohio HBPA asked the commission to take action, but officials with the horsemen's group and Beulah Park, the only Thoroughbred track open for live racing, agreed to extend negotiations. The extension avoided a two-month shutdown of Beulah Park.

Horsemen have argued they aren't getting their fair share of revenue from account wagering, and they have proposed a scheme that would make the entire state of Ohio a source market eligible for compensation. Beulah Park general manager Mike Weiss has said the threat to pull Ohio signals from account wagering companies only makes it harder for Ohio tracks as they struggle to gain new markets for their products.

Bob Reeves, an Ohio HBPA board member, made a presentation on account wagering revenue to the commission during its Feb. 19 meeting. Horsemen's groups have the right to pull signals under the Interstate Horseracing Act.

The commission, currently in turmoil with the recent resignations of executive director Cliff Nelson and chairman Luther Heckman in the wake of an investigation into commission business, met in executive session and opted not to rule on the Ohio HBPA's request. Reeves said the Ohio HBPA would contact Doug McSwain, counsel for the National HBPA, for guidance on whether federal law would supersede state law in this particular case.

Commissioner Norm Barron also took time to discuss his concerns about account wagering. He previously has said regulators have no handle on how much money Ohio residents bet through account wagering services.

"My conclusion after the presentation was I don't feel like we're adequately compensated," Reeves said. "Norm Barron asked a lot of good questions, and he seems as frustrated as I am."

In other business, commissioner Scott Borgemenke, whose family has a background in Thoroughbred racing, was named chairman of the commission to replace Heckman. His nomination by Gov. Bob Taft must be confirmed by the state legislature.

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