Horsemen Say Calder Issues Resolved
by Jim Freer
Date Posted: 7/5/2008 5:51:31 PM
Last Updated: 7/6/2008 7:41:55 PM
The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association announced on July 5 that it and Churchill Downs Inc. have reached agreement on purse and slots machine contracts for Calder Race Course.
The Florida HPBA added that the agreement should lead to an end to signal blackouts between Calder and other tracks, but would not include a contract for advance deposit wagering on races at the Miami Gardens, Fla., track.
In a statement, the Florida HBPA said “the contracts should be signed in the next day or two.” The Florida HBPA said its board voted unanimously to approve the agreements.
Florida HPBA president Sam Gordon said a CDI official verbally agreed to the contracts.
But CDI spokesman Kevin Flanery on July 5 told The Blood-Horse : “Our policy is not to comment on contracts unless they are signed. As soon as we have a contract, we will have an announcement.”
In one indication that contracts will be signed, the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association on July 6 gave Churchill Downs permission to send its signal for that day to Calder. The Sunday card was the closing day of Churchill’s spring meet.
Calder then permitted other racetracks in Florida to carry the Churchill card. Information on how many tracks were able to set up their systems to take Churchill was not available.
If purse and slots contracts are signed July 7, the Florida HBPA anticipates it would permit Calder to resume sending its signal to non-Florida tracks beginning July 10, Tim Ritvo, a trainer and director of the Florida HBPA, said July 5. Calder is not holding live races July 8 and July 9.
That timetable would enable Calder to have several days to advertise and market its July 12 Summit of Speed card to tracks in other states. That program, with four graded sprints, is annually Calder’s biggest day for all sources handle.
Since Calder opened its season April 21, the Florida HBPA has used its authority under the Interstate Horseracing Act to prevent Calder from sending its signal to tracks outside Florida.
If Calder resumes sending its signal to non-Florida tracks, Ritvo anticipates that horsemen’s groups in several states would again give tracks permission to send signals to Calder.
Calder has a live card July 7. If CDI and the Florida HPBA sign an agreement that day, Calder might not have time to carry out logistics to send its signal to interstate wagering tracks that afternoon.
The Florida HBPA said the contracts include an agreement by CDI to remove the Florida HPBA and its directors and officers from the list of defendants in a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.
On April 24, CDI, Calder and Churchill Downs Technology Initiatives Co. sued the Florida HBPA, the national Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group, and the two groups’ officers and directors. The suit alleges they violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by attempting to nationally negotiate standardized ADW contracts.
The plaintiffs asked for an injunction to dissolve the THG. They also are seeking an injunction to prohibit defendants from agreeing on uniform terms for sale of signals and from “boycotting racetracks and ADWs that do not comply" with their demand.
On May 14, the CDI companies added the Kentucky HBPA, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, and several of those organizations’ officers and directors as defendants.
The Kentucky HBPA’s May 23 counterclaim alleges that CDI has failed to pay it any portion of the wagering revenues earned by TwinSpires.com platforms in 2007 or 2008.
The Florida HPBA also said Calder would restore average daily overnight purses from a current level of about $130,000 to about $180,000 -- the level at the start of the meet. Calder will not adjust overnights to make up for an overpayment that reached more than $1 million this spring, even amid the purse cuts, the Florida HPBA added.
The Florida HBPA would not disclose percentages on purse and slots contracts until they are signed.
The THG is negotiating Calder’s contracts with ADWs. Since Calder opened its meet April 21, six New York State OTB franchises are the only ADWs the Florida HBPA has permitted to take Calder’s signal.
The simulcast blackouts, which include horsemen in eight states not sending signals to Calder, have led to a decline of more than 70% year-to-date in Calder’s all-sources handle. Amid that drop-off, Calder has reduced average overnight purses 30% and cut purses for most of its stakes.
CDI is considering the building of a casino with slot machines at Calder, but has not announced details or a possible date start construction.
Throughout negotiations, the Florida HBPA had said it would not sign a 2008 purse contract without a contract for slot machines, which Calder could have as early as 2009.
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