No Gulfstream Signal for New York OTB Parlors

With the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association seeking a higher rate for the Gulfstream Park signal, and the existing rate governed by a contract with the racetrack, the six off-track betting corporations in New York didn’t carry the Jan. 3 opening-day program from the South Florida racetrack.

Last year, the OTB corporations paid 2.55% for the Gulfstream signal, less than the rate charged to some facilities that offer live racing. The Florida HBPA in September 2006 notified Gulfstream owner Magna Entertainment Corp. and the six OTB corporations that it planned to ask for 2.85% for the 2007 meet, Florida HBPA executive director Kent Stirling said.

Negotiations didn’t begin until recently, but the dialogue hasn’t produced a deal. New York OTB operations generally can negotiate lower fees because of volume; Stirling said for the 2006 Gulfstream meet, the six entities handled $75 million on the product, with $39 million of that coming from just from New York City OTB.

The 2.85% horsemen seek is the total rate, which would be split 50-50 with Gulfstream.

“The bottom line is this would make just under a quarter of a million dollars, half of which goes to MEC,” Stirling said. “Gulfstream is the number one track in the country in race-by-race handle (during the period it races.) We figured we were giving our signal away.”

NYCOTB on its Web site told its patrons that due to a contract dispute, it would be unable to offer wagering on Gulfstream races until a resolution is reached. NYCOTB executive vice president and general counsel Ira Block said the organization has a contract with Gulfstream that sets the rate at 2.55%

“(The signal) is not being sent to us; if it was, we’d be delighted to take it,” Block said. “The horsemen are impeding Gulfstream from fulfilling the provisions of its contract. We have a contract with Gulfstream Park. I don’t know what the horsemen know or don’t know about the contract.”

Block acknowledged horsemen must give consent to allow wagers on races under the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978. He indicated a resolution could come through discussions between Florida horsemen and Gulfstream.

“The story is people (at New York OTB parlors) can’t bet Gulfstream,” Block said. “New York OTB customers are hostage to the contretemps.”

Block said the letter from the Florida HBPA doesn’t address the contract between Gulfstream and the New York OTB corporations. He said NYCOTB “wants this resolved” and continues to have dialogue with the racetrack.

Gulfstream is dark Jan. 4, which leaves another day for negotiations before weekend racing begins.

Stirling said the Florida HBPA regularly reviews contracts and is becoming more involved in the setting of prices for signals. “Sometimes you find things that don’t make sense,” he said of the contract reviews.

Stirling said the Florida HBPA recently decided not to raise the rate charged to the New York Racing Association tracks for the Gulfstream signal. He said the organization has received supportive comments on its position with the OTB corporations.

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