06/02/2005 11:00PM

Horsemen eye signal fees


Members of horsemen's groups from five states have quietly planned a meeting on Monday in Louisville, Ky., to discuss the availability and pricing of simulcast signals, officials of the horsemen's groups said on Friday.

The meeting, which will be attended by horsemen's groups from California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, and Louisiana - all states in which Churchill Downs Inc. owns racetracks - was called "to have a better understanding of what is going on and how it affects horsemen," according to Joe Kasperski, the president of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, which represents trainers at Churchill's Arlington Park.

"It's fact-finding on our part," said Kasperski. "We need a better understanding of where purse money comes from, how it's generated, and that's because things have been changing so much over the past several years. It's not as straightforward as the tracks and the states have made it out to be."

Horsemen's representatives were careful to say that their only intent was to share information, and they would not confirm that the meeting was called specifically to discuss Churchill's policies. Horsemen have veto power over the distribution of simulcast signals under the federal Interstate Horseracing Act, and any discussion about specific strategies could run afoul of antitrust laws.

The meeting indicates that horsemen are becoming more and more concerned about simulcast signals at sites that contribute far less to racetracks and horsemen than traditional racetrack sites, such as offshore rebate shops and account-wagering operations.

"There's a lot of concern among horsemen about what the right price is to these sites," said Marty Maline, the executive director of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "What is the cost of providing a signal? What should be the right price? A lot of people don't think the places that are just a computer on an island with no bricks and mortar should be paying 3 or 5 percent."