Tampa Dispute May Impact Florida Simulcasts

In what could be a major test for control of simulcast signals, horsemen's groups from a number of states were considering withdrawing their approval for the transmission of signals into Florida beginning Nov. 12.

The action is being considered in response to Tampa Bay Downs' action to deny the stall application of Tampa Bay Downs Horsemen's Protective and Benevolent Association president Bob Jeffries. It follows a protracted battle between the racetrack and the horsemen's group that saw the late Leonard Alexander, the former Tampa HBPA president, denied stalls last year.

Tampa Bay Downs is open for simulcasting only until Dec. 15. Under Florida law, tracks not open for live racing can only take simulcast signals through a host track open for live racing. The signal, once sent, must be available to all outlets licensed to carry it.

Thus, between now and Dec. 15, a vote by horsemen to deny signals to Tampa would remove the signals from Calder Race Course, the host track, and about 25 other wagering facilities in the state.

"This action by Tampa Bay Downs is a continuation of their attempt to try to dismantle the horsemen's organization," said Linda Mills, president of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, a group that represents horsemen on Florida's east coast.

Mills indicated that Texas horsemen would likely be the first to vote to withhold their signal, possibly followed by a number of other states, including Kentucky.
Should that occur, it would mean that Calder could no longer simulcast from its parent track, Churchill Downs.

Calder president Ken Dunn indicated he has heard no word of the impending action but might look for another way to import Churchill's signal if horsemen vote to withhold their approval.