Ohio Regulators OK Reduction in Racing Dates

The Ohio State Racing Commission has granted fewer live racing dates for 2011.

The Ohio State Racing Commission has approved 325 live Thoroughbred racing dates—33 fewer than this year—for 2011.

The commission, which met Sept. 22, approved the requests as submitted. However, the tracks must sign two-party agreements with the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association on dates in order to retain the right to offer full-card simulcasts in 2012.

Under the 2011 schedule, River Downs near Cincinnati will offer 81 days of live racing, a reduction of 26 from 2010, from April 29-Sept. 5 with racing four days a week instead of five. River Downs wanted to offer that schedule this year but the Ohio HBPA rejected the plan.

Beulah Park near Columbus was granted 122 days of live racing from Jan. 8-May 7 and Oct. 10-Dec. 21. The schedule is typical for Beulah Park, which opens for live racing in October 2010 under the new ownership of Penn National Gaming Inc.

Thistledown near Cleveland was granted 122 live days of racing, the same number as this year. Thistledown, purchased earlier this year by Harrah’s Entertainment, will open April 23 and close Nov. 5.

The ownership changes have all but ended the “7&7” program by which two tracks would combine for one card of 14 races. The program was initiated in the early 1990s as a way to offer more betting opportunities but continued long after full-card simulcasts were legalized in Ohio in 1996.

It hasn't been a good year for Ohio horse racing with ongoing declines in pari-mutuel handle and purses.

Through Sept. 26 (264 racing programs at the three Thoroughbred tracks), $11.1 million in purses have been paid for average daily purses of about $42,000, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems. Individual daily purse averages were $50,456 for Thistledown, $37,629 for River Downs, and $37,501 for Beulah Park.

On the harness racing side, the OSRC approved 366 programs at four tracks. Northfield Park near Cleveland will account for most of the harness dates with 213 programs from Jan. 1-Dec. 30.