04/03/2016 1:41PM

Parx horsemen interested in taking over management of racetrack


Officials of Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment Inc., which owns the Parx casino and Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pa., have not publicly confirmed they want to lease out or turn over the horse racing end of their operation to an outside management group. But if they do, at least one party, and maybe two, appear interested in discussing such an arrangement.

On Sunday, Sal DeBunda, the president of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said his organization expected to meet with Greenwood in the near future to talk about taking over the management of Parx Racing.

Tim Ritvo, the chief operating officer of The Stronach Group, which owns six racetracks, including Gulfstream Park, Santa Anita, and the Maryland Jockey Club tracks of Laurel Park and Pimlico, declined on Sunday to discuss Parx directly but said, "We are a racetrack management group and we are always looking for opportunities. It would make sense to consolidate racing in the Mid-Atlantic and have a cooperative racing schedule and centralize and consolidate operations. We've done a lot of good things in Maryland but we feel there are other things that need to be done in the region."

Joe Wilson, the chief operating officer of Greenwood Racing, has remained silent on Parx's plan for its racetrack, and did not immediately return a Sunday morning phone call.

Greenwood's plans for Parx Racing has been a topic of speculation the past month. The casino at Parx is one of the most successful on the East Coast, but to operate it, Greenwood must also hold the track's racing license.

"When we found out The Stronach Group was talking to Parx about an agreement to run the racing, I contacted Parx management on behalf of the PTHA and told them we would like have the same discussion," DeBunda said. "They agreed, and we will be meeting with them for preliminary talks in the near future. We have signed a confidentiality agreement with Parx about the details, and I understand The Stronach Group has also."

DeBunda said he was not sure exactly how such an arrangement would be structured.

"It would not be a sale; I'm not even sure it would be a lease," he said. "It could be more of a management situation. To my knowledge, no one has met with Parx yet."

DeBunda said if his organization operated Parx Racing, any revenue would be used to fund the PTHA's outside endeavors.

"Our goal would be to break even but fund our Turning for Home project, which has found homes for more than 1,500 horses the last five years, our purchasing wing, which helps buy feed in bulk for our horsemen, and our pension and health plans," DeBunda said. "Our intent would be to protect horsemen's rights."

The PTHA signed an agreement with Greenwood last year that guarantees racing days and purses through 2018.

"Our revenue is not only tied to parimutuel handle but also to slots," DeBunda said. "It comes to between $55 million and $60 million a year. Our contract assures us about 154 days of racing per year. It would be binding regardless of who runs Parx."