For The Madison Press
December 21, 2013
COLUMBUS – At the monthly meeting of the Ohio State Racing Commission on Thursday, Dec. 20, resolutions authorizing live racing dates for 2014 at Beulah Park and Scioto Downs were approved.
Scioto Downs reached an agreement with the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association in advance of the meeting for the Columbus harness racetrack to conduct 90 live days next year. Without this agreement, the Ohio Revised Code would have required the racetrack to schedule 100 days of live racing.
The live day minimum at all of the state’s seven racetracks will eventually be based upon the volume of video lottery terminal gross gaming revenue during a calendar year.
Racing at Scioto Downs in 2014 will begin on May 9 and conclude on Sept. 27.
At its prior meeting, the commission tabled Beulah Park’s date application and announced it would not consider approval until an issue related to the number of stalls that will be built at the racetrack replacing Beulah Park was resolved.
Chris McErlean, representing Penn National Gaming, the owner of Beulah Park and its replacement, Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley, said an agreement in principle has been reached with the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association.
The backstretch will contain stalls for 988 horses in addition to a receiving barn. The racetrack originally wanted to construct housing for 760 horses. McErlean also said a signed agreement resolving this issue and one spelling out the percentage of video lottery terminal (VLT) revenue the racetrack will pay to benefit racing and breeding in Ohio may be signed and presented to the commission by its next meeting on Jan. 23.
The commission approved only the first of Beulah Park’s two thoroughbred meetings. This meeting features 59 live racing days between Jan. 6 and May 3. Approval of the second meeting, scheduled at Mahoning Valley later in the year, will be considered by the commission at a later date.
Two racetracks facing a legislated deadline of Dec. 31 to determine the percentage of VLT revenue going to horsemen addressed the commission. While Thistledown and Scioto Downs have not reached an agreement with horsemen, all principles expressed optimism both agreements will be forthcoming.
Chairman Robert K. Schmitz reiterated his statement concerning the year-end deadline. He said the commission would move forward and set the percentage at each racetrack by rule if the parties can not agree. Ohio law mandates the distribution of between nine and 11 per cent of VLT proceeds to horsemen.
The number of Ohio racetracks housing VLTs has doubled to four after Northfield Park opened Wednesday, Dec. 18 and Miami Valley Gaming and Racing opened its new facility last week.
Concern was raised by Miami Valley offering wagers on simulcast races without pari-mutuel clerks available to take wagers. Commission Executive Director Bill Crawford said that customers were displeased and told him they would consider visiting River Downs, the nearest racetrack, instead.
Jim Simms, general manager at Miami Valley, said Churchill Downs, one of two principal owners, understood concerns about this radical approach that is being tried in order to reduce labor costs. He added that Miami Valley has people available to help customers place wagers at self-serve machines. Current plans are not to have mutuel clerks available when live racing begins.
Schmitz said those involved in the operation of Miami Valley Gaming and Racing need to reconsider a proper mix of live pari-mutuel clerks and self-service betting machines.