California Signals Blacked Out for One Day

The signals from two California racetracks were blacked out at all wagering outlets in Ohio March 10, but a resolution had them turned back on the following day at every track in the state except for Beulah Park.

The blackout stemmed from an ongoing dispute between Beulah Park and the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association that led horsemen to sue the state, the Ohio State Racing Commission, and Beulah Park. The Ohio HBPA had denied consent to send the Beulah Park signal to a Pennsylvania harness racino, but Beulah Park, as permitted under Ohio law, asked the racing commission to intervene.

The commission ruled horsemen hadn’t shown just cause to pull the signal and allowed it to be sent. The Ohio HBPA is arguing state law shouldn’t supersede the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978, which gives them power of consent.

The case could be heard this summer.

In February, the Thoroughbred Owners of California stood by Ohio horsemen in the case and denied the Bay Meadows and Santa Anita Park signals to Beulah Park. Under the 1996 simulcast law in Ohio, all tracks in the state must have access to incoming signals, or no track can have them.

Beulah Park waived its rights to the California signals, which meant Scioto Downs, a Columbus harness track located about 15 minutes from Beulah Park, had the signals for a several weeks and ended up with some of the Thoroughbred track’s business. Ongoing frustrations led Beulah Park ownership to rescind the waiver--for a day.

A few Ohio track officials said they weren’t notified of Beulah Park’s decision before they printed March 10 programs and patrons expected to have access to the California signals. On March 11, Beulah Park general manager Mike Weiss and racing commission chairman Norm Barron confirmed the signals had been restored.

The TOC has asked Beulah Park not to ask the racing commission to intercede again should horsemen deny consent to send signals even though the track can do so under Ohio law.

When the TOC pulled the signals from Beulah Park, the track announced a 20% reduction in purses, which track owner Charlie Ruma said were overpaid.