Ohio Tracks Strike Simulcast Deal

Two Ohio racetracks that share the Columbus market have reached a new agreement on full-card simulcasts designed to aid patrons and perhaps their bottom lines.

Beulah Park, a Thoroughbred track, and Scioto Downs, a harness track, for years have split the simulcast market on a day/night basis, with Beulah Park open during the day and Scioto Downs late afternoon and evening. The tracks are located about 20 minutes apart.

The tracks in 2008 will revert to an earlier schedule in which each is open day and night during their live racing seasons and completely dark otherwise.

Under the business agreement, Beulah Park will be open day and night for simulcasts from Jan. 7-May 3 during its live meet. Scioto Downs will be open day and night from May 4-Oct. 13 during its live meet. Beulah Park will reopen Oct. 14 for live racing, and have all simulcasts through Dec. 31.

In a Dec. 19 joint notice to the Ohio State Racing Commission, Beulah Park general manager Mike Weiss and Scioto Downs general manager of racing operations Stacy Cahill said the agreement is “in the spirit of cooperation and survival.” Projected financial impact of the arrangement wasn't released.

Having patrons travel from track to track during the same day for simulcasts wasn’t considered ideal. A similar situation exists in the Cleveland market, where Thistledown and harness neighbor Northfield Park are located.

All seven Ohio racetracks are struggling financially given continued decreases in total handle and increasing competition from gaming facilities in neighboring states.

On Dec. 20, the OSRC approved further reductions in dates for three harness tracks in 2008. Scioto Downs, awarded 95 days in October, will now race 68 days next year. Lebanon Raceway will go from 93 days to 62 days, and Raceway Park from 100 days to 84 days.

Thistledown is still scheduled to race the 111 days awarded by the OSRC in October. The track and the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association haven’t reached an agreement on dates; the horsemen’s group wants more racing opportunities.

In addition, the 111-day schedule falls short of statutory requirements, which means Thistledown--put up for sale by Magna Entertainment Corp.--wouldn't be able to offer full-card simulcasts in 2009.

There is no conflict over live racing dates for Beulah Park and River Downs.

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