The Ohio State Racing Commission is filing an appeal in a case in which it was left holding the bag for legal fees that now total more than $200,000.
The appeal stems from a 2007 lawsuit filed by the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association after the group refused to allow Beulah Park to send its signal to a Pennsylvania harness track unless the fee was increased from 3% to 5%. The two tracks asked the OSRC to intervene given Ohio statute that says the racing commission could overrule the denial of a signal given “unreasonable” circumstances.
The OSRC sided with Beulah Park and River Downs, but a United States District Court Judge ruled the Interstate Horseracing Act, which the Ohio HBPA cited, preempts the Ohio Revised Code on horse racing.
In March, a judge excused Beulah Park and River Downs from the case. During the March OSRC meeting, Ohio HBPA executive director Dave Basler said horsemen reached a settlement with the two tracks, but “this is not the forum to discuss the case.”
The OSRC voted 5-0 at that meeting to appeal to district court. Members noted the tracks requested the racing commission make a ruling, which it did by upholding Ohio statute.
“It’s a sad day for racing for this to happen to us,” OSRC member Gerald Holland said.
Despite declines in pari-mutuel revenue, the OSRC through March had a positive balance of about $150,000 because of reductions in payroll and expenses. But the cushion is flimsy because commission revenue comes from the struggling horse racing industry.
“We’ll have to decide where the money will come from,” OSRC member Ted Brown said in reference to paying any legal fees.