The Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and Beulah Park have struck a deal on revenue splits for account wagering, but the chief negotiator for the horsemen's group called it a big-picture issue that needs attention and leadership on the national level.
The Ohio HBPA and Beulah Park, one of the principals in the AmericaTab account wagering system that hubs through Oregon, negotiated for months and settled just before a hearing of the Ohio State Racing Commission that had been scheduled for March 1. In late December, the rift almost led to a two-month shutdown of Beulah Park.
The Ohio HBPA has argued for what it terms a "fair share" of account wagering revenue. Even racing commission officials have said they have no idea how much money is wagered by Ohio residents on out-of-state signals.
Beulah Park has said previous threats by horsemen to withdraw approval for signals to be sent to account wagering services would damage business at a time when the track is getting its product into more outlets.
Terms of the deal are confidential, though Beulah Park general manager Mike Weiss said the track agreed to give horsemen more revenue from source-market fees. A proposal by horsemen to make the entire state of Ohio eligible for source-market fees wasn't part of the deal.
Bob Reeves, an Ohio HBPA board member who led the negotiations for horsemen, said the one-year pact represents a compromise.
"They stepped up and made an offer to horsemen that was fair," Reeves said. "It's not a touchdown, but we moved the yard markers forward. They drafted a deal and got close to our numbers by a very different avenue."
The Ohio HBPA still must negotiate deals with River Downs and Thistledown, both of which open for live racing in April. Reeves said a piecemeal approach is inadequate, and he called on the industry to attack the issue on a national level.
"It's an issue that almost can't be settled on a local basis," Reeves said. "There needs to be national leadership on this, and there isn't any right now."
Reeves said there should be a national policy on the pricing of the Thoroughbred product to account wagering providers and outlets that don't support live racing. He said he expects the National Thoroughbred Racing Association will at least look at the situation as part of an overall wagering systems review.
"You really can't do this in Ohio, where you have a fairly weak signal," Reeves said. "The Californias, the Floridas, and the New Yorks need to be involved in this."
During the joint meeting of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations and Harness Tracks of America March 4-5 in Fort Myers, Fla., it was apparent the industry is having trouble keeping a leash on account wagering, legal or otherwise.
"Control is very important, because it can get away from you very quickly," said Bill Nader, senior vice president for the New York Racing Association. "It's very difficult to be aware of everything going on in the marketplace. It's hard to figure out who's doing what to whom."