Following nearly two days of testimony in the U.S. District Court of New Hampshire in Concord, but before it came to a judge's ruling, Rockingham Park, the New England Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association, and Suffolk Downs reached agreement Tuesday relative to the disbursement of simulcasting revenue.
The main issue was the financial responsibility of non- Thoroughbred venues in contiguous states to Massachusetts or within a 60-mile radius of live Thoroughbred racing (Suffolk Downs) to pay the host track a percentage of its Thoroughbred revenue derived from simulcasts.
In the five-year agreement, Rockingham Park, which will switch to a live standardbred format in May of 2003, will pay a flat fee to Suffolk Downs of $500,000 per year for any Thoroughbred simulcast signals received plus 5 percent of all Thoroughbred
telephone account wagering income.
Seabrook Greyhound, also owned partially by Rockingham Park, has also agreed to reach an understanding with Suffolk Downs in the next 14 days.
Additionally, Lincoln Greyhound Park in Rhode Island has agreed to pay Suffolk Downs 2 1/2 percent of its take on all Thoroughbred simulcast signals. Last year, Suffolk Downs took in $140 million dollars in simulcasting revenue, while the other New England venues garnered $230 million dollars in simulcasting revenues.
"We're very happy with the agreement," said Donald Sheldon of the NEHBPA, who is not only a Thoroughbred trainer, but also a lawyer speaking for the horsemen. "It's positive for everybody involved. We all realize the need for everyone in New England to work together. This was truly appreciated and needed so that the live
product can continue with the quality of racing that New England deserves."
Though the money goes to Suffolk Downs, management at the East Boston track has promised that a large percentage of the simulcast money will go to horsemen's purses.
This will help Suffolk offer a larger daily purse structure to the horsemen and also to extend the current Suffolk meeting well beyond the original planned closing date of June 7. The Massachusetts Handicap has already been moved to June 14, hoping to attract the handicap stars exiting the Pimlico Special in May.
In the recent past, before Tuesday's actions, Suffolk management indicated that they would be amenable to a summer-fall meeting with a few short breaks and a larger break during the winter months.
Because Tuesday's agreement was made between the respective parties and not by a court judge, this agreement is not binding on other jurisdictions outside of New England.
However, the NEHBPA feels that this agreement is a positive first step in relations contiguous states regarding a sharing of simulcast revenues.
Ed Callahan, Rockingham Park's vice president/general manager, said that the track will begin simulcasing races from Suffolk Downs immediately and that the Gulfstream Park signal, always popular, will return by Thursday at the latest.
Seven tracks, including Suffolk Downs, Gulfstream Park, Turfway Park, the Fair Grounds, Delta Downs, Sam Houston Park, and Oaklawn Park had shut off their signals to Rockinham Park in sympathy with the NEHBPA and will now return their signals.
Rockingham's suit, which is now dropped, was against the NEHBPA, Suffolk Downs, and the Kentucky horsemen, who were the first to support the NEHBPA.