02/19/2007 12:00AM

Ohio loses California signals


Racetracks in Ohio have been prohibited from offering the simulcast signal from both Santa Anita Park and Bay Meadows because of a decision by the Thoroughbred Owners of California to deny the tracks' signals to Beulah Park.

In notifying the state's tracks of the ban on Monday, the Ohio State Racing Commission cited a rule that prohibits Ohio tracks from offering simulcast signals that are denied to another racetrack. The board of directors of the California owners' group on Thursday rescinded its approval for Beulah to offer California racing signals to protest that track's decision to send its signal to a Pennsylvania harness track against the wishes of the Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

The blackout of the signals will begin on Thursday. The decision of the owners' group was effective beginning Tuesday, but Santa Anita and Bay Meadows were dark on Tuesday and Wednesday following holiday cards on Monday, Presidents Day.

The decision by the California owners' group stems from a recent ruling by the Ohio racing commission to overrule the Ohio horsemen's association, which rescinded its approval for Beulah to send its signal to Chester Downs in Pennsylvania unless the harness track paid 5 percent of handle as a fee, instead of 3opercent. The commission overruled the Ohio horsemen under a law that states the horsemen cannot "unreasonably withhold" approval of a simulcast signal.

The Ohio horsemen filed a lawsuit against the commission earlier this year, claiming that the commission's decision violated the federal Interstate Horseracing Act, which gives horsemen the right to approve the distribution of interstate simulcast signals.

According to a press release issued by the California owners' group, its board was "troubled by Beulah's decision to deny Ohio horsemen their consent rights."

"The board felt that - if left unaddressed - such a denial would have far-reaching consequences for Thoroughbred horsemen everywhere," the release said.

Mike Weiss, the general manager of Beulah, said he was "surprised" by the decision and claimed that the withholding of the approval would hurt horsemen in both states.

"They're just hurting themselves," Weiss said. "We bet a lot of money on those tracks, and they both share in the purse revenues from those signals."