04/16/2013 3:52PM

Penn National, Ohio horsemen still lack agreement


The Ohio State Racing Commission on Tuesday tabled a vote on whether to approve an agreement to run River Downs’ traditional live racing dates at Beulah Park, citing the lack of a deal between Beulah and horsemen, according to the executive director of the state’s horsemen’s group.

Dave Basler, head of the horsemen’s group, said that horsemen and Beulah’s parent company, Penn National Gaming Inc., have yet to reach an agreement on dates and backside accommodations on a track that Penn plans to build in Youngstown to replace Beulah beginning in 2014. However, he said he believed the two sides would reach the deal prior to May 18, the statutory deadline for approving the meet.

“We’re in ongoing discussion,” Basler said Tuesday after the morning racing commission meeting. “I’m optimistic that we can complete an agreement within a timely fashion.”

Horsemen are hoping to run at least 65 dates at Beulah outside of Columbus this year after River Downs was torn down earlier this year to make way for a new slot-machine and racetrack casino on the property. River’s owners hope to have the facility up and running by next year.

Discussions between horsemen and Penn National have centered on the number of race dates that Penn will card at the new Beulah facility in 2014 and the accommodations its backstretch will have for horsemen and their employees. Penn and other racetrack operators in Ohio also have faced recent questioning by state racing commissioners over the size of the grandstand at several new facilities being built to capitalize on state authorization to install slot machines at racetracks.

River Downs has traditionally run from May until Labor Day. The owners of River Downs, Pinnacle Entertainment, and Penn National have already reached an agreement on the meet, but commissioners said they would not approve the agreement until Penn reaches a pact with horsemen.

This is the second time the commission has deferred any action on approving the meet this year.