JC / Railbird

Suffolk Responds

It’s not a break in the lengthy impasse, but it is communication between Suffolk Downs and the horsemen — in a letter sent today to the NEHBPA (PDF), the track requests that the blocked NYRA simulcasting signal be restored (and that the NEHBPA ask other horsemen’s groups to restore their signals), and attempts to clarify several issues in the dispute with the horsemen over the 2011 meet. The letter is not a formal response to the proposal submitted by the NEHBPA to the track last week, which management is still considering.

A few points from the letter of particular interest to Massachusetts racing fans:

1) Regarding the blocked signals, which have sent local bettors to nearby simulcasting parlors with all tracks available, costing the track simulcasting revenue (and horsemen the portion that would have gone to purses), Suffolk Downs COO Chip Tuttle notes, “… the most troubling aspect of the conduct of the NEHBPA and other HBPA chapters is the complete lack of respect it shows to our customers…. In all the back and forth of the last month, the HBPA’s disregard for bettors has been most stunning.” Again, track management shows that it’s keenly attuned to how the impasse looks to horseplayers — in a way that the horsemen have not so far — and to the very real risk that some bettors won’t come back when the dispute is resolved. That’s money and support the Massachusetts racing industry can ill afford to lose.

2) The horsemen are arguing for an equal simulcasting split. “We have simply asked Suffolk to share the net profit from simulcasting in the same manner as it is shared in virtually every other racing jurisdiction in the United States,” NEHBPA lawyer Frank Frisoli said last week, pointing to a split over the last three years that has declined from 60-40 to 65-35 according to the horsemen’s numbers. Tuttle puts the split at 62-38 and questions the prevalence of 50-50 simulcasting splits in the industry:

We have anecdotal evidence from other jurisdictions that contradicts your claim and indicates many jurisdictions use similar percentages as we have in our most recent contracts (e.g., Penn National 33% to purse from simulcast revenue; Parx Casino 31% to purse from simulcast revenue; Lone Star Park 40% to purse from simulcast revenue).

It seems noteworthy that the two tracks with slots have a less equitable split. And if the sample splits are representative, it’s another indication that Suffolk has acted in good faith since 2007, despite a significant drop in total handle.

3) Raynham/Taunton owner George Carney has said that he’s interested in picking up racing days for his Brockton Fair track (closed since 2001) if fewer than 100 days were run at Suffolk this year. Noting concerns about purse inequities and safety, Tuttle suggests the track could work with that:

We remain open to any discussions that would give your members additional opportunities to race locally, especially if such opportunities could offset our current schedule and reduce the duration of keeping our barn area and training facilities open.

A two-track Massachusetts racing circuit in 2011? That would be a twist in this drama, and one that would suit Suffolk, which has proposed a shorter meet of 67-76 days. A reduced calendar would better fit the current market, but the horsemen are reluctant to agree to anything less than the state-mandated minimum of 100 days, fearful the cut would become permanent.

10:00 PM Addendum: More from Lynne Snierson in the Blood-Horse:

Frank Frisoli, the attorney for the NEHBPA, said that he had received the letter Feb. 15 and sent a reply to Tuttle the same afternoon. He did not discuss the details of the horsemen’s response but did say, “This appears to be heating up. I don’t know if we’re headed to court or to a resolution.”

Let’s hope things are moving toward resolution.

1 Comment

[…] that the HBPA’s position on the 2011 season is 100 days or no days at all,” wrote the track’s COO in a letter to the NEHBPA yesterday, in which he reaffirmed that Suffolk plans to race in 2011. “[W]e have been consistent about […]

Posted by Jessica Chapel / Railbird v2 - 100 Days or No Days on February 16, 2011 @ 5:51 pm