01/05/2007 12:00AM

No Gulfstream-N.Y. deal yet


The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and New York's off-track betting companies remained at loggerheads on Friday in a dispute that has resulted in the blackout of the signal from Gulfstream Park in New York's OTB locations.

Ira Block, the general counsel of New York City Off-Track Betting Company, which negotiated a long-term contract with Gulfstream Park on behalf of the state's six OTB companies in 2003, said Friday that OTB officials had discussed the situation on Friday with officials from Magna Entertainment, the owner of Gulfstream, but that "nothing had changed since Wednesday," when Gulfstream's meet opened and the blackout began.

The horsemen's group has blocked the New York OTB's from betting on the Gulfstream signal, stating that the rate that the OTB's pay - 2.55 percent of handle - should be increased to 2.85 percent. State horsemen's associations have the right to veto simulcast contracts under the federal Interstate Horseracing Act.

On Friday morning, the horsemen's group's executive director, Kent Stirling, and president, Sam Gordon, said that the horsemen would not accept anything less than 2.85 percent. Stirling called the rate that the OTB's pay "by far the lowest rate anyone pays for the Gulfstream signal," and criticized the OTB companies for failing to support horsemen at racetracks.

"I can't name one racetrack that pays under 3 percent," Stirling said. New York's OTB's, he noted, "pay 2.55, and they don't even own a racetrack."

New York City OTB has failed to turn a profit for the past four years of its operation, and in 2005, the company lost $8.2 million on handle of just over $1 billion. The financial difficulties of the city-owned company, which typically pays the lowest rates of any simulcast receiver in the country, have led New York City managers to ask the state legislature to consider a merger of the company with the New York Racing Association, the operator of Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga, which is itself asking for protection under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code.

Gulfstream horsemen have been emboldened by new revenue from slot machines at the track. In fact, Stirling said that the horsemen will be acting far more aggressively in the future to block signals from receivers that they do not believe are paying a fair rate.

"This is just a minor step in a series of future steps," Stirling said.