Simulcasting Dispute Ventures Across State Borders

Negotiations between the New England Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and Rockingham Park continued into the new year in the wake of a simulcasting dispute that has spilled over state borders.

As of Jan. 1, the New England HBPA had denied Rockingham and other New Hampshire and Rhode Island racetracks permission to simulcast live races from Suffolk Downs, where it represents horsemen. The HBPA has that right under the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978.

The Kentucky HBPA has offered its support and is not allowing the Turfway Park signal to go into those tracks. Rockingham management in turn has sued the New England and Kentucky HBPAs.

The New England HBPA is allowing, for 10 days, while Lincoln Greyhound Park in Rhode Island and Hinsdale Greyhound Park in New Hampshire to receive the Suffolk and Turfway signals in good faith. That means the facilities most affected are Rockingham and two New Hampshire dog tracks: Lakes Region Greyhound Park and Seabrook Greyhound Park.

The New England HBPA contends that because live Thoroughbred racing is no longer conducted in the state of New Hampshire (Rockingham applied for Standardbred dates in 2003), the state's racetracks no longer have the right to simulcast Thoroughbred racing without the permission of Suffolk Downs and horsemen.

According to the New England HBPA, horsemen, in negotiations with Rockingham, were willing to receive the exact same percentages as in 2002: 8.25% of wagering on live races, mandated by law; a negotiated 50-50 split of intertrack wagering revenue, and 4.85% of incoming simulcasting revenue by contract.

The New England HBPA further said racing law in New Hampshire is silent as to the amount to be received by horsemen from out-of-state simulcasts. Prior to 2001, the negotiated rate paid by Rockingham to the horsemen was less than 4%, among the lowest received by any horsemen's group in the country. The HBPA settled for 4.4% in 2001 and 4.85% in 2002 while committing to work with Rockingham to purse legislation to improve the quality of racing in the state.

In Massachusetts, simulcasting facilities must pay premiums earmarked for Suffolk Downs purses on all Thoroughbred handle. The New England HBPA is asking for similar contracts with out-of-state simulcasting markets.

The HBPA contends the three Greyhound tracks in New Hampshire handle about $50 million a year on Thoroughbred signals from outside of New England and pay nothing to the area's Thoroughbred industry. Horsemen also claim that $106 million (77%) of Rockingham's business is done on Thoroughbred simulcasting, and that Rockingham is involved in the ownership of Seabrook, which annually handles about $20 million dollars on Thoroughbred simulcasts from outside of the area.