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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Prairie State Setback

On to the veto session of the Illinois Legislature is the battle cry in the Prairie State as Governor Pat Quinn, on the last possible day, vetoed the expanded gaming legislation which would have brought slots to the racetracks.  Of course, this is no surprise; Quinn has long voiced his objections to the lack of  oversight for the proposed casino in Chicago as well as not banning political contributions from the casinos.  Quinn also objected to the failure of a portion of the revenue to be dedicated to education.

So the move to override the Governor's veto awaits the November 6 election after which a lame-duck session of the legislature meets when hopefully departing legislators who no longer need to answer to the voters will cross over and support the legislation.  The chances of the veto being overriden?  It depends on who you talk to. 

At the present time, there is no love lost between the SBOANJ and Freehold Raceway as it appears last week's track safety issue which forced qualifiers to be cancelled may have been part of the posturing between the two sides on other issues.  The raceway apparently handed out a memo to the horsemen on their own discussing the current contract issues which resulted in a response from the SBOANJ to be released.  The problems?  One part of the problem is Freehold is required to race 192 days a year unless they get the permission of the horsemen which up to now they have not done.  Obviously, racing 192 days would mean racing for purses significantly below the existing floor and the SBOANJ knows this, but Freehold can't arbitrarily impose their will on this issue; a process is in place to be followed.

Then there is no love lost over the OTW issue.  Freehold has yet to build any more OTWs since the Toms River OTW was opened.  Plans to open up an OTW in Cherry Hill, NJ has long been stalled by Penn National Gaming's Freehold partner, Greenwood racing who has deliberately dragged their feet to prevent an OTW being opened on the NJ border near the old Garden State Park, virtually across the river from their own Pennsylvania OTWs and Parx Racing.  This means three OTWs which Pennwood Racing is entitled to open remains nowhere in planning.  State law allows horsemen groups to take over permits for an OTW if no significant progress has been made by tracks towards opening an OTW.  Well, Freehold Raceway is litigating to make sure the horsemen don't get hold of one of their OTW permits which will allow horsemen to earn funds to race for at Freehold.

Right now it looks like racing will begin on August 30 as planned, but there is ominious wording on the condition sheet. "** PURSES SUBJECT TO CHANGE BASED ON FREEHOLD'S ABILITY TO EXPORT SIGNAL TO INTERSTATE WAGERING OUTLETS**", which suggests the horsemen may be considering revoking permission for Freehold to export their signal out of state.  It is probably the one weapon the horsemen have though they will suffer with slashed purses.

A meeting of horsemen is scheduled for August 30.  Perhaps we will then learn more about the next steps in this dispute.  Obviously the horsemen want to keep racing, but there comes a time when they need to stand up for their rights.   


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