Without ADW Deal, Horses May Get Boot

Beulah Park management says its crunch time on a deal for 2009 racing dates.

About 1,000 Thoroughbreds could be forced to leave the grounds of Beulah Park by the end of this year if the racetrack and horsemen’s association don’t have a deal for advance deposit wagering revenue in place by Nov. 21, the day the Ohio State Racing Commission will award racing dates for 2009.

Beulah Park and the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association have a deal in place that covers everything except ADW revenue. The temporary agreement has allowed the Ohio track to export its live racing signal for the current meet, during which racing is held five days a week through Dec. 20.

Beulah Park normally would reopen in early January, but it has only requested two Thoroughbred dates and some Quarter Horse racing for 2009. The OSRC rejected the track’s request in October and told management and horsemen to resolve their differences by the November meeting.

Because the live races aren’t available through ADW platforms, and overall handle has declined, Beulah Park cut purses 9% effective Nov. 7. The minimum purse will drop to $3,200.

“At this point, without an ADW deal in place, we’re not going to open for the January meet,” Beulah Park general manager Mike Weiss said. “Without a deal, it takes too much out of the purse account and our bottom line. It’s very possible if the dates aren’t settled, we may close after Dec. 20.”

Weiss said about 1,000 horses are on the ground at the Grove City track. When asked where the horses would go if the barn area closes, Weiss said: “(Horsemen) are going to know ahead of time and have to make other arrangements. I personally pray it doesn’t come to that.”

Beulah Park, whose majority owner is homebuilder Charlie Ruma, is private property. Weiss said the track made a few adjustments earlier this fall to accommodate horses that had nowhere to go between meets at River Downs and Beulah Park.

Horsemen in Ohio and other states have been negotiating for a larger share of ADW revenue for horsemen and racetracks. They generally advocate a one-third split among horsemen, tracks, and ADW providers—about 7% each based on a blended takeout rate of 21% per dollar wagered.

Weiss has said Beulah Park came up with a formula that would have provided about 6% for purses from ADW handle. “Our horsemen are starving but they wouldn’t take it, because this is a fight on a national level,” he said.

On Nov. 4, Weiss said he determined that in 2007 Churchill Downs Inc.-owned TwinSpires.com handled $2.7 million and provided $277,000—10%--to purses from a combination of host and source-market fees. The information about TwinSpires.com and possible closure of the barn area were noted on the Beulah Park overnight for Nov. 7.

Ohio HBPA executive director Dave Basler disputed the TwinSpires.com figures. He said that for most of Beulah Park’s winter/spring meet last year, the ADW service AmericaTAB, owned in part by Beulah Park, was in operation and paying much higher source-market fees for bets made on Ohio races.

AmericaTAB was sold to CDI last spring. Basler said the 10% figure probably is a combination of revenue from both services, with most of the revenue from AmericaTAB.

Basler wouldn’t speculate on when the ADW dispute will be resolved, but a national deal would facilitate resolution of the Beulah Park situation. The Ohio HBPA is a member of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group, which has been negotiating ADW contracts for members.

“Hopefully, we’ll get something done nationally,” Basler said. “The California situation brought people to the negotiating table.”

In California, the Thoroughbred Owners of California, a THG member, hasn’t granted consent for major ADW providers to offer wagering on Hollywood Park races outside of California. Hollywood Park, which opened Oct. 29, has cut purses and claims ADW handle is down 50%.