Panel: WV Jockeys Not Paid Proper Mount Fees

A West Virginia racing regulation sets a minimum for jockey mount fees.

The West Virginia Racing Commission April 13 ordered payment of jockeys that were shortchanged on some mount fees at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races for almost seven months.

Updated regulations on minimum mount fees took effect in West Virginia in July 2011, but at Charles Town the changes weren't honored. Horsemen claim the situation developed because of a bookkeeping error. Track officials said there is no definite agreement between jockeys and the Charles Town Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association outlining the rule-mandated minimums.

The period in question is July 10, 2011, through Jan. 25, 2012. The mistake was brought to the racing commission’s attention in January, and the parties were told at that time to reach an agreement on how to correct it.

One official said jockeys were underpaid roughly $35,000.

After listening to stakeholders assign blame for the situation, the WVRC ruled the back wages must be paid. The parties must determine how that will be done; one complicating factor is individual tax returns will have to be adjusted.

“To go back to horsemen and say they owe money is one thing, but collecting it is another thing,” Charles Town HBPA president Ken Lowe said. “There is an expense involved here because someone didn’t debit their accounts.”

Eric Zimny, director of racing operations at Charles Town, said the jockeys and horsemen have the information necessary to make the payments, though he admitted it would have to be done by hand. Zimny said the agreement between jockeys and horsemen wasn’t updated after the new rules took effect.

Jeff Johnston of the Jockeys’ Guild, which has some members at Charles Town, said the organization had discussions with horsemen and the racetrack about a “full audit” by Charles Town so riders could be properly paid. Johnston said nothing can be done until the figures are in hand.

“We need to know who is owed what,” Johnston said.

At Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort, the other Thoroughbred track in West Virginia, jockeys and horsemen have an agreement to pay lower fees for some purse levels despite the state regulation, said Rose Mary Williams, director of racing at Mountaineer. Williams said the regulation allows for such deals.