River Downs

River Downs

Christine A. Wittmer

No Deal Yet for Dates at Two Ohio Tracks

Horsemen and two Ohio racetracks don't appear to be near an agreement on a contract.

Barring fruitful negotiations—and that scenario currently doesn’t appear possible—it could be months before decisions on Thoroughbred racing dates in Ohio are made.

Beulah Park and River Downs in August told the Ohio State Racing Commission they plan to apply for Quarter Horse meets, along with only two days of Thoroughbred racing each, for 2009. The commission has said dates for next year will be awarded Oct. 16.

The unwillingness of the tracks to apply for Thoroughbred dates largely stems from action that took the River Downs signal out of the advance deposit wagering mix for most of its meet. The Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association is one of 19 horsemen’s groups that are using the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association to negotiate contracts for ADW revenue.

Beulah Park general manager Mike Weiss said Sept. 30 he made a proposal to the Ohio HBPA that would have provided close to 6% of pari-mutuel takeout for ADW wagers to purses. Ohio HBPA executive director Dave Basler the same day said horsemen made a proposal two weeks prior but hadn’t received a response.

“I’ve told him I’m not dealing with the THG,” Weiss said. “I’m dealing with the Ohio HBPA. I got a proposal from the THG that’s not worth responding to. We have an agreement (with horsemen) to negotiate with the HBPA.”

As for not applying for Thoroughbred dates by Oct. 16, Weiss said: “I’m not happy about it. But I don’t know how to keep Beulah alive without some negotiation.”

Beulah Park and River Downs own BetPad.com, an ADW service. When Beulah Park opens Oct. 13 for its fall meet, the track’s signal won’t be available through BetPad.com or any other ADW platform without an agreement with horsemen.

A situation that developed last year and dragged on into 2008 would suggest the dates issue won’t be resolved by October. Thistledown and the Ohio HBPA were unable to agree on the number of days for the 2008 meet, and didn’t have a deal until about a month before the meet started.

Thistledown has applied for 90 racing dates for 2009; this year, it will race 122 days. The OSRC in August indicated it doesn’t support losing Thoroughbred racing—and more than 200 racing dates—at the two tracks next year.