Court Upholds Ejection of Gill, Adamo

Ownere, trainer claimed procedural due process rights violated by Penn National move.

A federal judge has ruled against owner Michael Gill and trainer Anthony Adamo in a lawsuit they filed against the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission over the pair's ejection from Hollywood Casino at Penn National racetrack.

In her Oct. 16 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia H. Rambo of the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled that Michael Dillon, then-executive secretary of the Pennsylvania regulatory body, and members of the commission named in the suit either had qualified immunity from lawsuits or that the procedural due process claims made in the lawsuit failed "as a matter of law."

In her ruling, which was based on testimony and evidence presented during a three-day trial in April, Rambo also denied a request by attorneys for Gill and Adamo to file an "amended answer" and directed that the case be closed.

According to the court record, the facts in the case were undisputed by parties on both sides, so Rambo was faced with deciding whether the regulators and staff had qualified immunity and the due process issue.

The sequence of events leading to the ejection of the owner and trainer from Penn National and the subsequent legal action began when Dillon sent an e-mail to some commissioners and other commission officials in January 2010. In the e-mail, Dillon discussed the possibility of a boycott of the track's races by jockeys. The riders, according to Dillon, were planning the boycott because of safety concerns with Gill's horses.

In his correspondence, Dillon noted that such a boycott would violate racing regulations and that it could lead to a lawsuit from Gill alleging business interference.

To head off the boycott, Dillon notified Gill and Adamo on Feb. 2, 2010, that they were being ejected from the track. In taking the action, Dillon did not cite any violations of horse racing regulations by Gill and Adamo, but did so because the commission determined the "plaintiffs' continued participation... has become inconsistent with the orderly conduct of the race meeting and is therefore inconsistent with the best interests of horse racing," according to records in the case.

At the time of his ejection, Gill had 49 free stalls at Penn National; following their exclusion from the track, Gill and Adamo were allowed to race at Philadelphia Park, now Parx Racing, one of two other Thoroughbred tracks in the state.

Adamo appealed his ejection with the allowed 48-hour window for such action, but Gill did not, and on March 5, 2010 Adamo's ejection was rescinded. Gill, who remains ejected from Penn National, on April 22 requested the commission rescind the ejection or conduct a hearing into the matter.

Adamo was suspended again in July and also ejected from Fort Erie in Canada after he refused an order from the commission's enforcement director to make himself available for an "investigative interview."

In their lawsuit, Gill and Adamo contended their procedural due process rights were violated because they were not afforded a hearing on the merits of the ejection.

Adamo also claimed his due process rights were violated because he was not given proper notice of the suspension, nor did he receive a proper hearing on the suspension.