Florida Simulcast of Oaks, Derby Seems Safe
by Jim Freer
Date Posted: 5/3/2013 12:06:37 PM
Last Updated: 5/4/2013 9:18:18 AM

Though Calder Casino & Race Course can't export its signal outside of Florida, the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association indicated it doesn't expect other horsemen's groups to immediately pull their consent for signals to be sent to Calder.

The Florida HBPA said April 30 it would prevent Calder from sending its simulcast signal to and accepting bets on its races from wagering outlets outside of Florida because it couldn't reach a purse agreement with Calder. Management immediately slashed overnight purses 20%, citing an anticipated loss in purse revenue.

Calder, owned by Churchill Downs Inc., began its 2013 meet April 6 with average daily overnight purses of about $180,000.

The horsemen's group did not agree to a contract because Calder has refused what horsemen call "open access," which would allow horsemen to freely ship between Calder and Gulfstream Park beginning July 6. That is when the two tracks are scheduled to begin head-to-head racing on Saturdays and Sundays until June 2014.

Gulfstream has said it will allow open access and let Gulfstream-based trainers run horses at Calder and then return to the Gulfstream stable area.

"The Florida HBPA's action denies out-of-state and online fans the opportunity to watch and wager on Calder's live races," said John Marshall, Calder vice president and general manager of racing. "We remain hopeful the Florida HBPA leadership reverses its decision quickly for the benefit of the South Florida racing industry."

Marshall was not immediately available for further comment.

The Florida HBPA, under the Interstate Horseracing Act, has the right to prevent Calder from exporting its signal across state lines to tracks, off-track betting parlors, advance deposit wagering companies, and phone wagering services. TwinSpires.com, the ADW owned by CDI, was among the ADWs not permitted to take Calder's signal and allow betting on its races.

The cutoff of the Calder signal was a reminder of a bitter Calder-Florida HBPA contract dspute in 2008 when HBPAs in several other states, supporting the Florida HBPA, prohibited tracks in their states from sending simulcast signals to Calder.

The Kentucky HBPA joined that action, which resulted in Calder not being able to take Churchill Downs' signal on Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby (both gr. I) days. Florida pari-mutuel outlets to which Calder exports those signals also were prevented from carrying those races unless they had arranged to take signals from Tampa Bay Downs.

Gulfstream made that arrangement with Tampa Bay Downs in 2008. A Gulfstream official said it has that same arrangement available, if needed, for the Oaks and Derby cards May 3-4.

Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida HBPA, said he does not expect any HBPAs to quickly bar tracks from sending signals to Calder. He said the horsemen's groups know "the  importance of having the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks available to fans."

Officials with the Kentucky HBPA were not available for comment.



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