08/18/2008 11:00PM

Ohio dates up in the air


River Downs and Beulah Park have not applied for Thoroughbred racing dates for next year with the Ohio State Racing Commission as a result of a continuing stalemate over the same issue that has dogged other racing jurisdictions: account-wagering revenue splits.

John Izzo, deputy director of the racing commission, said Tuesday that River Downs and Beulah Park have applied for 14 and 28 dates of Quarter Horse racing, respectively. Jack Hanessian, general manager of River Downs, said the track does not intend to apply for Thoroughbred dates "unless the current working model changes. We're getting absolutely killed this year."

Since May 1, Ohio horsemen have withheld the required permission from River, Beulah, and Thistledown for the racing signal to be given to major account-wagering companies such as Television Games Network, XpressBet, and Youbet. Ohio horsemen, like their colleagues in other states, are being represented by the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Group in negotiations with racetracks on account-wagering issues.

Dave Basler, executive director of the Ohio division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said the apparent intention of the tracks in applying for Quarter Horse dates is to satisfy state regulations that would permit them to continue offering imported simulcasting at their tracks in 2009. However, "it certainly isn't the horsemen's interpretation of Ohio statutes that offering Quarter Horse racing, and no Thoroughbred racing, would meet the standard" to allow simulcasting, Basler added.

Izzo said a regularly scheduled meeting of the commission on Thursday at River Downs will include the dates-application issue. Thistledown has applied for 90 Thoroughbred dates for 2009.

Basler and Hanessian said they would be willing to negotiate but that neither side has made a first move. It would not be unexpected for this issue to drag out for months; it wasn't until March of this year that Thistledown was assigned its 2008 dates by the commission.

The account-wagering issue has been a political hot potato in recent months in several states, including Kentucky, Florida, Texas, and California.