Indiana Downs is weighing its options in the wake of a decision by Churchill Downs Inc. to pull its racing signals from an Indiana Downs-owned off-track wagering parlor.
Patrons that frequent Indiana Downs’ Evansville, Ind., satellite wagering facility were faced with two fewer menu options Aug. 15 when signals from Arlington Park and Calder Race Course weren’t available. A release from CDI said the move stemmed from an agreement with Ellis Park, which CDI last year sold to businessman Ron Geary.
CDI, as part of that agreement, continues to handle export of the signal from Ellis Park, a Kentucky track located several miles from the Evansville betting parlor. The release said CDI negotiated with Ellis Park for several months in the hope of continuing the sale of the Arlington and Calder signals to the Evansville parlor, but when a resolution couldn’t be reached, CDI instructed TrackNet Media Group, the company’s simulcast agent, to pull the signals.
“We regret not being able to offer racing signals from Churchill Downs Inc. tracks to customers of the Evansville OTB,” CDI executive vice president Steve Sexton said. “The Ellis Park sales agreement was negotiated by members of the Churchill Downs Inc. management team who are no longer with our company. When we realized the sales contract required a change in our former signal distribution practices to the Evansville wagering outlet, we tried to find another solution that would be acceptable to both the Ellis Park team and our company. We were unable to find such a solution.”
Indiana Downs general manager Jon Schuster said he doesn’t buy the rhetoric and is weighing the track’s options.
“They knew full well what they were doing,” Schuster said. “It is what it is. It doesn’t make it any different or any more or less palatable. We’ll see what we can do to get some relief from this situation. There are two or three logical industry remedies we can pursue. We want to protect our interests and the interests of the Indiana horsemen.”
Schuster said he became aware of the situation the morning of Aug. 14. He explained that in simulcast contracts, it’s standard practice to include 24-, 48-, or 72-hour "out" clauses to discontinue the sale of a simulcast signal to a receiving track or satellite facility.
“What is atypical is an out clause being exercised,” Schuster said. “We will do our best to restore as much openness as we can to pursue the signals.”
It isn’t the frst time signals have been withheld from Indiana Downs satellite wagering facilities. The Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association withholds Thoroughbred signals from the Clarksville and Evansville parlors. Indiana Downs officials unsuccessfully fought to have the signals banned from the state entirely in the hope of forcing the horsemen to negotiate on previous occasions. Then, last November, the Kentucky HBPA and Churchill Downs barred the Breeders’ Cup signal from being sent to both southern Indiana locations.
This time, Schuster said, the scenario is different. The Kentucky HBPA was not involved in the action.
“It is very, very different from the Kentucky horsemen and their signal issue,” he said. “In this specific issue the horsemen aren’t involved. At this point, it’s the business matter of two racing associations. From that perspective, I believe this is a considerably different issue than those of the past.”