04/30/2006 11:00PM

Gulfstream slots update

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The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association will continue to negotiate with Magna Entertainment Corp. over a contract for a share of slots revenues at Gulfstream Park while in a state-sanctioned arbitration process, the executive director of the FHBPA said on Monday.

Magna announced on Friday that it intended to seek binding arbitration from the state over how to divide the revenues from 1,500 slot machines planned for Gulftream later this year. The company said it was seeking arbitration because it could not come to an agreement with the FHBPA over how much of the money would go to the racetrack and how much would go to purses.

Kent Stirling, the executive director of the FHBPA, said on Monday that the horsemen's group was surprised by Magna's decision to seek arbitration after several months of fruitless negotiations. Still, the FHBPA will continue to seek a negotiated solution to the stalemate while the arbitration process goes forward, Stirling said.

Arbitration "doesn't preclude us in any way from negotiating with Magna, and that's what we intend to do, even though we're not exactly thrilled with the negotiations so far," Stirling said.

Stirling declined to reveal the percentages that the horsemen are seeking. The state will receive 50 percent of all slot-machine revenues at the four sites, with the rest up for grabs.

State law requires that any racetrack have an agreement with its horsemen prior to accepting bets on slot machines. Under the law, sites with agreements will be able to begin accepting slot-machine bets on July 5, but Stirling said that the earliest the arbitration process could be completed would be in August, delaying the opening of a casino at Gulfstream by at least a month if the two sides are not able to reach a deal.