11/13/2007 12:00AM

Thistledown dates still subject of talks

EmailOhio racetracks and horsemen have failed so far to reach an agreement on racing dates and shared purse revenue for 2008, jeopardizing Thistledown racetrack's ability to take simulcast bets in 2009.

The agreement needs the approval of all seven racetracks in Ohio and the groups representing harness and Thoroughbred horsemen in the state. Thistledown and the Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association have refused to sign the agreement, contending that the deal would result in subsidies for harness purses.

Thistledown is statutorily required to run 187 live racing dates unless a nine-party agreement states otherwise, and if the agreement is not in place and Thistledown ran its planned 111-day live meet next year, it would lose its simulcasting license for the next year.

The agreement that is supported by the other seven interests in the state would require Thistledown to share its dark-day simulcast revenue with the other tracks. Dave Basler, executive director of the Ohio horsemen's association, said that would mean a total cut of $500,000 to Thistledown's purses, with $400,000 going to harness tracks.

Basler said Tuesday that the negotiations are complicated by the fact that Thistledown's owner, Magna Entertainment Corp., is currently attempting to sell the unprofitable track.

"Without the ability to take simulcast wagers in 2009, it's not looking like that's a real attractive deal," Basler said.

"We will continue to work with the horsemen to try to come up with a package we can live with," said Brent Reitz, the general manager of Thistledown.

Negotiations over the agreement are expected to be ongoing until the commission's last meeting of the year, on Dec. 20. Any agreement between the tracks and horsemen's groups is subject to the commission's approval.