River GM: Purse Loss at $7 Million ... and Counting

In his annual letter to horsemen, River Downs general manager Jack Hanessian said more than $7 million in purse revenue generated at the Cincinnati, Ohio-area racetrack has gone to other tracks in the state the past 4 1/2 years through a formula that disperses dark-day simulcasting funds.

River Downs opens Friday for its live meet, which runs through Labor Day.

In 2000, Hanessian said more than $1.8 million in revenue generated at River Downs went to Thistledown and Northfield Park near Cleveland, and Beulah Park and Scioto Downs near Columbus.

"If River Downs was able to keep its purse money, purses at (the track) would increase an additional 30%," Hanessian said in the letter published in the track's first condition book.

Last November, River Downs and two harness tracks -- Lebanon Raceway and Raceway Park -- filed suit in U.S. District Court to have the Ohio statute that created the common purse pool declared unconstitutional. The case is pending, and arguments may not be heard until June at the earliest.

From September 1996 through January 2001, Lebanon showed a loss of $4.3 million in purse revenue, and Raceway a loss of $3.3 million in purse revenue, according to figures released by River Downs. Northfield Park showed a gain of $5.2 million, followed by Scioto Downs (a gain of $4.9 million), Thistledown ($3.7 million), and Beulah Park ($1.4 million).

Scioto Downs, a harness track, is now open for simulcasting year-round rather than just during its live meet. Last year, track general manager Ed Ryan told the Ohio State Racing Commission the move in part would allow Scioto to contribute more to the common purse pool.

Officials in the state have noted that all the tracks and horsemen's associations agreed upon the dark-day revenue formula when Ohio's full-card simulcasting law passed in 1996. There is a debate within the state's racing community as to whether the law has achieved the desired results.