Thistledown Wins a Battle in Simulcast War

Thistledown, the Magna Entertainment Corp.-owned racetrack that has battled for years over simulcasts with a neighboring harness track, received approval Aug. 10 from the Ohio State Racing Commission to import races it hasn't been able to take because of state law.

Absent an agreement signed by racetracks in the same market area, Ohio law doesn't allow host Thoroughbred tracks to take races from tracks with a first post time of 4 p.m. Host harness tracks may take signals only from that begin at 3 p.m. or later.

Officials at Thistledown, located near Cleveland, argued simulcasts actually commence when wagering begins on another track. Northfield Park, a Standardbred facility, contended simulcasts begin at post time.

After three hours of legal presentations and testimony from 11 people, the commission voted 4-1 in favor of Thistledown. It can begin taking simulcasts from California tracks, which previously were offered only at Northfield, located about eight miles down the road. The commission ruled simulcasts commence when the video feed from a sending track is first delivered to Ohio.

In Ohio, though live Thoroughbred racing isn't permitted at night, Thoroughbred simulcasts are allowed. Northfield largely has had that market to itself.

The simulcasting law has been a bone of contention since it was established in 1996. Another ongoing concern has been a common purse pool for dark-day simulcast revenue that shifts money earned at one track to another, regardless of breed.

The commission is expected to further discuss the simulcast start-up time issue at its next regular meeting, set for Aug. 19.