Arlington Park and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association reached agreement on what had been a highly contentious contract at midnight on May 3.
The Arlington meet begins May 4. The deal averted a potential simulcast blackout of the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (both gr. I) from Churchill Downs May 4-5, as well as export of the Arlington signal outside of Illinois.
"We worked from 1 p.m. until midnight," said Glen Berman, executive director for the Illinois THA. "We were about as far apart as two sides could be at the beginning. But all the stuff that Arlington Park had proposed that affected our rights were removed, and we were back to negotiating a normal contract."
Among the issues in the fight over the 2012 racing season contract was the manner in which purse money accrued from a casino supplement is paid. The initial contract proposal from Arlington Park also included a provision that required horsemen to waive their rights to revoke the importing and exporting of simulcast signals—a right given to horsemen's groups by the federal Interstate Horseracing Act.
Berman said the distribution of $85 million in "impact fees" held in escrow from the state's casinos will now be distributed to ensure there will not be a drop in purses between 2013 and 2014.
"We are working to pass slots legislation that would provide purse revenue by 2014," Berman said. "We came up with a compromise that in 2013, if there are no other sources of revenue, then the escrow purse money would carry over to 2014."
In response to the contract dispute, the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association had withdrawn its permission for Churchill Downs to send its simulcast signal to Arlington Park on May 4 and May 5. Berman said the show of solidarity among horsemen was important in helping reach resolution.
With the contract now approved, Kentucky HBPA Marty Maline said the association would restore Churchill's ability to distribute the simulcast signal to Arlington Park.
"The right to authorize the simulcast signals is an important responsibility given to horsemen by the federal government and not one we take lightly," Maline said. "It was important to be sure the horsemen had a fair contract."
Arlington, in a May 1 release, said it would reduce purses by 20% effective opening day if the conflict wasn’t resolved due to an anticipated drop in simulcast revenue. Track officials said they offered to honor the 2011 contract until a deal was struck.