Increasing purses and reducing costs were primary topics at the Thoroughbred Owners of California open forum held at Santa Anita Park Feb. 8.
TOC chair Mike Pegram, president Joe Morris, and seven other board members brought the audience of about 20 up to date on several issues and took questions.
The TOC is working with the industry to try to recapture money for purses from advance deposit wagers made on track through a bettor's computer or phone, Morris said. An on-track wager generates more money for purses than an ADW wager.
"It's close to about a 4% difference that we lose," said Morris. "Xpressbet and TVG have agreed to it. The Stronach Group tracks and Del Mar have agreed to help with it. WatchAndWager has agreed to it. We've still got to work with the Twin Spires people. But hopefully within a month, we will be able to start capturing those wagers, which will help our purses."
Morris also reported that the TOC is working on legislation that would allow Internet poker in California. The racing industry wants to be a part of that to boost revenues.
"We believe we have to be a part of the plan and we have to be a site," said Morris. "We don't want to be a subsidy."
Morris pointed out that other racing jurisdictions that receive subsidies from such things as casinos are always in danger of having those subsidies rescinded.
Regarding the Southern California stabling situation after the closure of Betfair Hollywood Park, Morris reported that Los Alamitos has more than 460 Thoroughbreds stabled there. Another 250 are at San Luis Rey Downs, and 185 are at Barretts Sales and Racing (formerly Fairplex Park). Two-year-olds will be allowed at training facilities beginning Feb. 15.
A question was raised about whether Santa Anita could remain open for training during the Del Mar meeting. Morris said that would cost $17,000 a day and the industry decided that the stabling and vanning fund could not afford it. Morris said that TOC is working to get similar funding for that fund from ADW wagers as is currently in place with simulcast wagers.
Another question concerned carrying Del Mar purse overpayments from the previous year to the next instead of paying it to the owners who won the purses during the meet.
Pegram said that the board debated the issue strongly before voting to hold the overpayment to the next year.
Board member Nick Alexander pointed out that several board members would have received significant checks if they had voted to pay retroactively. The board felt that the money is needed because Del Mar has to increase purses for several grade I and II stakes to comply with changes made by the American Graded Stakes Committee, as well as to pay worker's compensation fees and to ensure that Del Mar wouldn't have to cut purses if business doesn't meet expectations.