11/08/2002 12:00AM

Dispute halts Delta signal

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Delta Downs in Vinton, La., was not allowed to simulcast its races out of state on Thursday night, its season opener, because no contract had been signed between the track and the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

At issue is funding for the track's inaugural running of the $500,000 Delta Jackpot on Dec. 21, and the manner in which purse commissions from slot revenues are to be divided, according Oran Trahan, president of the Louisiana HBPA. Until an agreement is reached, horsemen are expected to continue to withhold their permission for Delta to simulcast its races to the more than 200 out-of-state sites that were to take its signal.

Delta plans to distribute a record $160,000 a night in purses this meet thanks to the 1,492 slot machines that were installed in February.

"We feel the $500,000 race is too excessive at this stage of the game," said Trahan. "We don't feel we should give $500,000 of horsemen's money for a race that is really premature, so what we did was cap [the horsemen's contribution] at $250,000."

As for the division of revenue, Trahan said that Delta - the first track in Louisiana to have slots - and the horsemen differ on the interpretation of the law that governs the allocation of slots money to purses.

Of the 15 percent of slots revenues set aside for purses, 30 percent goes to races restricted to Louisiana-breds. The gray area is the remaining 70 percent. Trahan believes statebreds are entitled to a portion of those funds, too, which is the current practice at Delta.

"The racetrack wants it redone," said Trahan. "It needs to remain as it is."

The funds have helped boost the purse for 2-year-old maiden races for Louisiana-breds this meet to $28,000. The same race for open company is worth $13,000.

Jack Bernsmeier, a vice president with Delta's parent company, Boyd Gaming, did not return calls on Friday.

Delta, which handled about $500,000 per night during its fall Thoroughbred meet last year, handled just over $200,000 on its races Thursday. The races were allowed to go to offtrack sites in Louisiana.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed we can solve this thing soon," said Trahan. "Everybody's paying for it. It's cost everyone."