Judge Protects Beulah Park's Online Wagering

An Ohio judge on Friday ruled that Beulah Park can continue operating an online wagering service that the state first approved, then tried to shut down.

Beulah Park has run its online service, called Winticket.com, since last September. The service was created to complement Ohio's telephone account betting system, known as Ohio TAB. Charles Ruma, president of Heartland Jockey Club, which runs Beulah Park, got the Ohio State Racing Commission's permission to operate the online system Jan. 25, 2000, according to court records.

In November, however, Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery told commissioners she had misgivings about the online service. She finally asked the commission to immediately "terminate the experiment operation...until such time as a thorough and completed formal opinion could be issued," according to racing commission minutes.

Charles Ruma, president of Heartland Jockey Club that operates Beulah Park, responded by acquiring an injunction that allowed the service to keep running, then took the case to court.

Ruma's attorneys argued the commission never approved the service conditionally and Judge John Bessey of the Court of Common Pleas, Franklin County, agreed. Bessey pointed out that the commission granted experimental approval to four other proposals involving the TV Games Network and Youbet.com, two services that provide telephone and online wagering services. In Winticket.com's case, however, the commission never stated that it considered the service experimental.

Cliff Nelson, racing commission director, could not be reached for comment late Friday.

Before the commission granted permission for Beulah Park to pursue Winticket.com, it conducted an investigation and received confirmation from the state's assistant attorney general, according to court records.

"It may have been (the commission's) intention to give (Beulah Park's) Internet wagering system an experimental status subject to being withdrawn at any time," Bessey said in his order. "However, the record is devoid of any evidence indicating...that intention."

Beulah Park spend about $200,000 developing Winticket.com, according to court records. Bessey concluded the money never would have been spent if Beulah Park executives thought the service could be "terminated at any time at unfettered discretion of (the commission).