Simulcast Agreement Reached in Ohio

Pact will avoid potential blackout of Triple Crown simulcasts in the state.

The Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has reached an agreement with a Cleveland-area harness track that will avoid a potential blackout of Triple Crown simulcasts in the state.

Ohio HBPA executive director Dave Basler said April 28 the organization struck a deal with Northfield Park, which opted to drop live harness racing Saturday nights in May and June in order to offer full-card simulcasts beginning around noon.

Under Ohio’s complex law governing out-of-state simulcasts, Northfield couldn’t offer the simulcast of the May 7 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, May 21 Preakness Stakes, and June 11 Belmont Stakes (all gr. I) programs unless it switched to simulcast-only days.

Thistledown, located about 15 minutes away, is open for live Thoroughbred racing and full-card simulcasts Saturday afternoons during that period. The overlap could mean less revenue for Thoroughbred purses if bettors opt for Northfield over Thistledown, horsemen said.

“Essentially we’ve got an agreement to share the purse portion of revenue generated on Triple Crown races bet at Northfield Park,” Basler said. “The money will be allocated to Thistledown's purse account to offset any decline in revenue.”

Without a deal, Thoroughbred horsemen could have refused to allow Northfield to simulcast the Derby under their Interstate Horseracing Act rights, which could lead to a statewide blackout. Under Ohio’s racing statute, if one track in the state is denied a signal, it has the power to enact a blackout at all other wagering outlets.

The only Ohio racetrack that won’t offer the Derby simulcast is Scioto Downs, a Columbus-area harness track that is closed for full-card simulcasts until the following week when it opens for live racing. Scioto and Beulah Park split the simulcast market in Columbus under a two-party deal.

Meanwhile, horses will be permitted on the grounds of River Downs near Cincinnati April 29, Basler said. About 500 horses were evacuated April 22 because of flooding caused by a rising Ohio River.

River Downs, which had been scheduled to open for live racing April 29, has postponed opening day and hasn’t set a new date. Basler said the racing surface, which was covered with water, must first be evaluated.