River Downs asked for 96 days in 2012.

River Downs asked for 96 days in 2012.

Courtesy of River Downs

Ohio 2012 Dates Reflect Some Stability

Seven tracks applied for a combined seven fewer dates for next year.

After years of steady reductions, Ohio’s seven racetracks have applied for 694 dates in 2012, only seven fewer than were applied for this year.

The somewhat stable environment is tied to the anticipated launch of racetrack video lottery terminals, perhaps next year. The tracks and horsemen’s groups are negotiating revenue splits for VLTs, which were legalized earlier this year but could face legal challenges.

Ohio racetracks in recent years have cut dates because of reductions in pari-mutuel handle in the neighborhood of 12%.

On the Thoroughbred side, tracks applied for schedules similar to those of 2011. Beulah Park applied for 117 days (Jan. 9-May 5 and Oct. 8-Dec. 22); Thistledown requested 122 dates (April 18-Nov. 17); and River Downs asked for 96 days (April 27-Sept. 3).

Ohio State Racing Commission officials said Thistledown, now owned by Caesars Entertainment, originally applied for 31 fewer days for 2012 but changed course. Thistledown and River Downs, owned by Pinnacle Entertainment, still must sign agreements with the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

Beulah Park, owned by Penn National Gaming Inc., has a deal with the Ohio HBPA, primarily because its request for dates exceeds the statutory minimum. Under the 1996 law governing full-card simulcasts in the state, tracks must apply for at least the number of dates they raced in 1991; if horsemen don’t agree to reductions, tracks lose their right to offer full-card simulcasts in subsequent years.

On the Standardbred side, Northfield Park near Cleveland again leads the way with an application for 210 days of live racing year-round, well above the 182-day minimum required.