Track Official Questions Move by Ohio Horsemen

The Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has refused to permit signals from Ohio racetracks to go to Indian casinos in Oklahoma, a move one Ohio racetrack official has questioned.

The Ohio HBPA wants to make sure Oklahoma horsemen are getting their fair share of revenue from tribal casinos. Mike Weiss, general manager of Beulah Park, said the track had only considered sending its signal to the outlets in question, and he also wondered whether the decision is good for Ohio racing.

"It is our understanding that Oklahoma Indian casinos and outlets contribute little or nothing to horsemen's purses in that state," Ohio HBPA executive director Dan Theno said in a release. "Apparently continued efforts by Oklahoma horsemen to receive a fair share from wagering at Indian casinos has fallen on deaf ears."

Theno said the Ohio HBPA is taking a tougher stance on allowing the export of signals from Ohio's three Thoroughbred tracks--Beulah Park, River Downs, and Thistledown--to out-of-state outlets that don't directly support horsemen's purses in those states. He said requests to allow exports to such outlets would not be well received by Ohio horsemen.

Weiss said Beulah Park contacted the Las Vegas Dissemination Co. for assistance in finding outlets for its signal. Beulah Park and River Downs, the majority owners of the AmericaTab account wagering service, had requested to send the Ohio signal to The Stables, Fire Lake Entertainment Center, Tonkawa Bingo, and Comanche Nation Games, all of which operate in Oklahoma. The Ohio HBPA denied the request under the Interstate Horseracing Act, which gives horsemen power over where signals are sent.

"We're in a position where we're struggling," Weiss said. "We're trying to get our product out there. We have the quantity, but we don't have the quality to charge more for our signal. They're going to set us back. We're existing because of our export (revenue). They're trying to take on an industry, and we're just trying to survive."

In December, the Ohio HBPA and Beulah Park agreed to work on revenue plan for account wagering after the horsemen's group threatened to withdraw its consent for Ohio signals to go to account-wagering providers. A deal was supposed to be in place by Feb. 10, but the deadline is now Feb. 19, the date of the next Ohio State Racing Commission meeting.

Weiss contends a handful of members of the Ohio HBPA board are "going in their own direction and not speaking for all the horsemen." Horsemen's groups in general are taking a closer look at where signals go, and how much revenue is going to purses. Outlets that don't support live racing programs are particular targets.

The National HBPA, though it takes a position not to interfere in affiliate business, has tackled the issue on a broader scale and will continue discussions during its winter convention Jan. 31-Feb. 4 in New Orleans, La. National HBPA president John Roark said representatives of horsemen's associations from overseas are expected to attend to discuss similar problems.