Still No Purse Contract at Calder

Still No Purse Contract at Calder
Photo: Coady Photography

After three months of Calder Casino & Race Course's 2013 season, horsemen are frustrated over the lack of a purse agreement with the Miami Gardens, Fla., track.

"We need a purse contract and we need it now," said Kent Stirling, executive director of Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

On July 9 the Florida HBPA sent two letters to the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering requesting that Calder's casino license not be renewed because of the lack of a purse agreement. The Florida HBPA's letters noted that under its interpretation, Florida law requires a Thoroughbred track to have a purse contract in order to obtain and retain a casino license.

After sending the letters, the Florida HBPA learned that the Florida DPMW had already renewed Calder's casino license. The horsemen's group does not plan to challenge the regulator's decision, Stirling said.

Officials for Calder were not available for comment. Stirling said Calder has maintained that its longterm agreement with the Florida HBPA on slot machine revenues makes it eligible to renew its casino license.

Calder opened its casino in 2010. Its agreement with the Florida HBPA on the percentages of slot machine revenues designated for race purses extends through 2019.

On July 6 Calder and Gulfstream Park began their highly publicized head-to-head racing on Saturdays and Sundays. Stirling said the possible impact of that competition on Calder handle is a reason for urgency to reach a purse agreement.

"If the handle at Calder is down, they could use it as a reason to cut purses," he said.

Calder began its meet April 6, and the lack of a purse contract gives the Florida HBPA some negotiating leverage related to simulcasting. Under the Interstate Horse Racing Act, a track without a purse contract needs the permission of its horsemen's group to send its signal to tracks, ADWs, and other outlets in other states.

The Florida HBPA gave that permission except for the four race days from May 2 to May 5. During those four days, Calder cut average daily overnight purses 20%. On May 9, it restored the 20% to make purses about $180,000 per day.

The Florida HBPA has given Calder permission to send its signal across state lines through Aug. 31. Calder is scheduled to race Fridays through Sundays until the end of June 2014.

"We are not planning to prevent them from sending out the signal, because that would not be good for anyone," Stirling said. He added that the two sides are still far apart on some issues although he did not provide specifics.

The Florida HBPA also does not have a contract with Gulfstream for its inaugural summer meet that began July 1 but Stirling said the two sides are not far apart and he does not anticipate a problem.

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