CHRB Gets No Help on Hollywood Park Plans

Land development representative says plans are progressing but offers no timetable.

A representative of the Hollywood Park Land Company told the California Horse Racing Board March 19 that plans to demolish the Inglewood track and develop the 238-acre site are progressing, but that until the economy improves, racing will continue on a meet-to-meet basis.

Speaking to the board at Arcadia City Hall, Chris Meany, senior vice president of the land development company, said that a six-month notice on closing the track is as much as he can provide the industry. When asked if he could provide the Board and the industry with a longer-term commitment beyond just one meet to another, Meany flatly answered “no.”

Vice Chairman David Israel told Meany, “While you have a very clear plan, no one else who owns a racetrack can make a plan because they don’t know what dates they are going to be running the next year. Six-months warning doesn’t work for others.”

Commissioner Jesse Choper and chairman Keith Brackpool both urged Meany to provide a longer-term guarantee of a year or more, but Meany did not reply one way or the other to their requests.

Meanwhile the board approved an application for the spring/summer meet at Hollywood Park from April 21 through July 18. Due to a shortage of horses prepared to run, Hollywood Park will operate some four-day weeks, resulting in five fewer racing days than the CHRB originally allocated. The track plans to eliminate live racing on six Thursdays: April 22 and 29, June 3, and July 1, 8, and 15. However, they will offer simulcast wagering on those days, officials said.

The track will continue to race on Friday nights.

Elsewhere, Hollywood Park President Jack Liebau said the pari-mutuel clerks union has accepted a 22.5% reduction in jobs to help the industry deal with declining revenue in the state's satellite wagering network.

Doug Kempt, vice president of the Pari-Mutuel Employees Guild Local 280, said the vote was not a happy one.

“We did not throw ourselves a ticker-tape parade," he said. "This was a tough thing for our members to do – sacrifice jobs for the good of the industry. We need to make sure that everyone in this room remembers what we’ve done, so that our members will be considered when filling any new jobs relating to other forms of wagering or customer service positions.”

While praising the action of the pari-mutuel clerks, Brackpool and Israel reminded that the staffing reductions do not solve all of the financial problems in the satellite wagering network as handle continues to decline. He said the industry still has an obligation to provide the board with a business plan well before June 30 that shows how the network can operate without continuing to run up deficits that are draining money from purses and other racetrack operations.

The matter will be taken up by the Board’s Committee on Innovative Marketing and Promotion of Horse Racing, chaired by commissioner Richard Rosenberg.