09/30/2014 1:21PM

Horsemen take issue with Fair Grounds purse structure


The Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has asked Fair Grounds to reconsider the way it plans to pay out purses during the 2014-15 race meet.

The Louisiana HBPA said the meet-opening overnight purse levels were calculated forecasting a 15 percent handle decline compared with the 2013-14 meet. The HBPA takes issue with that forecast, contending that improvements to the turf course and increased attention to customer service should produce, at worst, flat betting compared with last year.

The group also said that Fair Grounds didn’t consult with it before recently releasing its intended overnight purse levels.

Purses will be cut at the meet because Fair Grounds is escrowing purse money generated from gambling at video poker machines it operates. A Quarter Horse group filed a lawsuit demanding that Fair Grounds split video poker revenue dedicated to purses between Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, something that hasn’t been done. The track believes the suit has no basis, but Fair Grounds will set aside money for a worst-case scenario.

The bulk of the purse cuts – which would be restored if the suit fails or is dropped – came from the stakes program, and the HBPA said overnight levels should fall about 8 percent, not the 15 percent set forth by Fair Grounds. Total purses paid during a racing season are set by formula, and the HBPA said it would that prefer purses stay at a consistent level instead of starting purses low and raising them later in the meet.

Fair Grounds president Tim Bryant said the track planned to reach out to the HBPA.

“Immediately after receiving the letter of concerns, we contacted them to schedule a face-to-face meeting,” Bryant said in an e-mail. “We are confident we will come to something that will be agreeable to everyone.”