Mountaineer Ups Jockeys' Insurance to $1 Million

Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort has increased its on-track catastrophic injury coverage for jockeys from $100,000 to $1 million through Dec. 17, 2006.

Mountaineer said it acted immediately on the expanded coverage after it received a quote from American International Group, the nation's largest underwriter of commercial and industrial insurance.

A Dec. 22 release said the West Virginia track, owned by publicly traded MTR Gaming, voluntarily increased coverage "in response to the plight of jockeys who believed they had $1 million in catastrophic insurance coverage through the Jockeys' Guild, only to discover the coverage had been allowed to lapse."

That situation came to forefront in 2004, when jockey Gary Birzer was paralyzed in a racing accident at Mountaineer. Since that time, other racing associations have increased the amount of on-track accident insurance from $100,000 to $500,000 or $1 million.

In November, the Guild underwent a management shake-up. A Congressional subcommittee has questioned Guild and racetrack officials about health and welfare issues such as insurance coverage.

"We recognize that jockeys are involved in a perilous sport and that injuries are a possibility each time they ride," Mountaineer director of racing Rose Mary Williams said in the release. "We are concerned about the lack of coverage provided by the Jockeys' Guild and want to make every effort to ensure the jockeys and their families have disability protection in the event of catastrophic injury."

Mountaineer president and chief executive officer Edson "Ted" Arneault said even though the company recognizes that jockeys are independent contractors, "we believe this is the right thing to do, and acted in an expedient manner to provide them with additional protection."

Mountaineer offers about 220 live racing programs under its year-round schedule. The facility has thousands of video lottery terminals that provide revenue for government, the company, and horsemen in the form of purses.