Horsemen Force Contract Issue With Calder

Group questions state's licensing of track for slots without contract in place.

The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has told Calder Casino & Race Course it will withhold its consent for simulcast approval effective July 25 if the group has no purse contract with the track.

The two parties have been negotiating a new deal. The Florida HBPA said the fact Calder received a license to continue operating slot machines without a purse contract in place led to the action; Florida statute mandates such a contract be in place before a slots license is issued.

Purse revenue splits from slots aren't part of gaming legislation in Florida. Horsemen must negotiate the amount with each track that has gaming.

"No slot machine license or renewal thereof shall be issued to an applicant holding a permit under Chapter 550 to conduct pari-mutuel wagering meets of Thoroughbred racing unless the applicant has on file with the division a binding written agreement between the applicant and the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association governing the payment of purses on live Thoroughbred races conducted at the licensee's pari-mutuel facility," the statute states.

The July 2 letter of approval from state Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering director Leon Biegalski says Calder "has fulfilled all statutory requirements for licensure." The Florida HBPA contends that's not the case.

"Purse negotiations have been ongoing with Calder officials since last year," Florida HBPA president Phil Combest said in a release. "After months of good-faith efforts by the Florida HBPA, the fact that Calder would receive and operate its slots license is a complete slap in the face to our horsemen and their many businesses that depend upon quality live horse racing to keep people employed."

Earlier in July the Florida HBPA said it gave Calder permission to export its signal out of state through Aug. 31. "We are not planning to prevent them from sending out the signal, because that would not be good for anyone," Florida HBPA executive director Kent Stirling said at the time.

Calder and neighbor Gulfstream Park are both racing live this summer, with an overlap on weekends. When the Gulfstream summer meet began July 1, the track had no purse contract with the Florida HBPA; that was resolved July 16, both parties said.