Updated: Friday, February 25, 2011 7:36 PM
Posted: Friday, February 25, 2011 7:17 AM
By Lynne Snierson
The New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association rejected the latest proposal from Suffolk Downs on the night of Feb. 24, and it is likely the dispute over a contract for the 2011 season will not be resolved by the Feb. 25 deadline the track had imposed.
According to a highly placed source close to the negotiations, the 10 voting members on the NEHBPA board of directors voted 5-4, with one abstention, against accepting the offer from the East Boston, Mass., track to pay $8.25 million in purses over a race meet of 75 to 80 days. Suffolk reportedly was also willing to pay a greater percentage of simulcast revenue than the 50-50 split the horsemen have requested throughout the negotiations, which have dragged on for five weeks. The horsemen have steadfastly said they need to race no fewer than 100 days.
Suffolk chief executive officer Chip Tuttle was out of the state and unavailable for comment. When reached by phone late Feb. 24, NEHBPA general counsel Frank Frisoli said: “There are issues that are still to be negotiated. We are close to agreement. On our second vote, we advanced the proposal, and Suffolk may accept it.
“The issues have always been money and the number of days of racing. The money end is resolved. But the days end is not.”
Reportedly, horsemen refused to accept fewer than the 100 days of live racing currently required by state statute in order for the track to be able to simulcast. The source said Suffolk’s offer is contingent upon passage of legislation to reduce the minimum of days mandated, and it also requires the NEHBPA not to oppose the track’s request to the Massachusetts State Racing Commission for the reduction in dates.
“We will let Suffolk petition the legislature to reduce the number of days of racing,” Frisoli said. “The one thing we won’t do is support their petition to race fewer than 100 days. If the legislature agrees to reduce the number of days, then we’ll race whatever days the state requires.”
In its offer, Suffolk reportedly agreed to allow the horsemen to decide upon the exact number of live racing days between 75 and 80. If they were to race 80 days, purses would be an average of $103,125 but if they settled on five fewer days and raced 75, the daily distribution would increase to $110,000.
Throughout the dispute, the NEHBPA has always said its members cannot race for less than $100,000 per day if they are to be able to pay their bills and properly care for their horses.
Suffolk’s offer includes the possibility of racing an additional five days beyond the 75 to 80 proposed if benchmarks in handle are met. Should business improve beyond projections, the track would be willing to reopen negotiations during the meet.
On Feb. 24 Frisoli said that Suffolk had “set hard deadlines” of Feb. 25 for a response to its latest counterproposal. Now negotiations will continue on deadline day.
On Feb. 21 Suffolk threatened to shut down in March if the NEHBPA and other chapters across the country do not restore simulcast signals by Feb. 27. The horsemen, who raced without a contract in 2010 and saw purses cut during the summer meet after legislation to expand gambling failed in Massachusetts, withdrew their consent for races from the New York Racing Association to be simulcast at Suffolk On Jan. 28.
Horsemen in Ohio, Florida, Oregon, and Maryland subsequently withdrew their signals in a show of solidarity at the beginning of February.
According to figures released by the track Feb. 24, Suffolk bucked national trends and experienced a 3.8% increase in simulcast wagering in the month of January 2011 as opposed to January of 2010. The numbers for February told a different story, with Suffolk experiencing a 44.9% drop in simulcast handle. From Feb. 1-23 in 2010, the track took in $4,431,110 in simulcast revenue but for a similar period in 2011, only $2, 442,451 was bet on races from other tracks.
In early February Suffolk cut back its hours of operation and reduced staffing levels due to the steep decline in revenue
I applaud them for standing up for themselves. And I have even more respect for the Ohio, Florida, Oregon, and Maryland HBPA Chapters for pulling their signals in support of the NEHBPA.
” Horsemen refused to accept fewer than the 100 days of live racing currently required by state statute. “
(iv) The organization’s ability to protect the financial interests of the individuals participating at licensed race meetings.
(2) Subject to section 12(7), all simulcasting authorized by the racing commissioner shall be conditioned upon the holder of the license conducting at least 9 live horse races on each live racing date allocated in the holder’s race meeting license, unless this requirement is waived in writing by both the racing commissioner and the certified horsemen’s organization with which the licensee has contracted.
(7) If a race meeting licensee is unable to conduct racing on any live racing dates allocated to the licensee by the racing commissioner or less than 9 live horse races on any allocated live racing dates because of a labor dispute, fire, adverse weather conditions, or other causes beyond the race meeting licensee’s control, then the race meeting licensee is considered to have conducted those races or race days for purposes of this act and is not precluded from conducting any simulcasts because of the licensee’s inability to conduct those live races or race dates.
Well that is when we actually had The Office of Racing Commissioner. In 2009 our Demented Governor Granholm dissolved the ORC and placed us under GAMING as in Casinos. The MGCB could care less if we die. They knocked us in 2010 from 84 Dates to 3. The HBPA had to but back 44 days with a Million Dollars of their purse money. For 2011 they also granted us 84 dates but that will be knocked down as well as they state that Michigan doesn’t have funding for Thoroughbred Horse Racing.
As of this writing our HBPA President Bobby Barron gained no answers from a meeting with the MGCB conducted Wednesday Feb. 23. We don’t just have Michigan problems we have Pinnacle Race Course Owner problems.
MGCB:Thursday’s meeting with the MGCB did not offer any information to eliminate the uncertainty for a 2011 season at Pinnacle. The process for Pinnacle to complete meeting the “conditions” for their 2011 license is still underway, according the MGCB. Executive Director Kalm will issue his order once process is completed.
HBPA President Bobbie Barron, expressed the current uncertainty has made it impossible for HBPA members to plan for a 2011 season. Also, it will be extremely difficult to supply horses with out of state stall applications due in days. Mi-HBPA members are being forced to apply out of state, now, or stalls may not be available. It is impossible for the HBPA to conduct business with important details not available. As soon as, substantiated information is available it will appear on this site.
HBPA will continue efforts to gain meaningful information. 2/25
So the Mi. Statue? you can forget about it. Conduct no less than 9 races a day? It’s hard to do without Horses. But I sure as hell wouldn’t accept what we accepted last year. I tell Michigan to take a flying leap. Then I’d pull our T.B. Inter-state simulcasting signals from the Harness Tracks.
(j) A race meeting licensee shall not conduct an interstate simulcast of a different breed than it is licensed to race live at its race meeting, unless the licensee has the written permission of all race meeting licensees in a city area that are licensed to race that breed live at their race meetings.
The problem with the MIHBPA is they wait good. They don’t ACT good and that is a problem within its self.
Updated: Friday, February 25, 2011 9:23 PM
Posted: Friday, February 25, 2011 9:23 PM
By Lynne Snierson
The New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and Suffolk Downs have still not struck a deal on a 2011 contract, despite the latest developments that have the horsemen agreeing to accept the number of live racing days required by state statute and the latest purse structure proposed by the track. The two sides remain far apart on a key issue.
Suffolk requested that the NEHBPA work with the track in support of legislation to reduce the present minimum of 100 days of live racing mandated by state statute. The East Boston, Mass. track also asked that if the horsemen would not support them in that effort, they would then not stand in opposition to the bill. The NEHBPA adamantly refused to comply.
“This demand requiring support of the legislative agenda of SSR (Suffolk Sterling Racecourse) is totally unacceptable and inappropriate,” Frankl Frisoli, the attorney for the horsemen, said Feb. 25. “The NEHBPA cannot accede to it. The NEHBPA reserves its rights to seek legislative action that is in the best interest of the NEHBPA, the Massachusetts Breeding industry, and Massachusetts farms. It will not abrogate that right as a condition of entering into a purse agreement for 2011.”
Suffolk does not need the permission of the NEHBPA to pursue its legislative agenda.
“The increase in purses in our most recent proposal was contingent upon one condition, neutrality on legislation to reduce the number of days required to simulcast. That is a condition the NEHBPA is unwilling to meet.” said Christian Teja, Suffolk’s vice president of communications and marketing. “We will access all of our options, including legislative relief independent of the HBPA.
While Suffolk chief executive officer Chip Tuttle was at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 25 to meet with New England horsemen who race at the Florida track in the winter months, the NEHBPA board of directors advanced its latest offer.
“Our board voted to run for whatever number of days the law in Massachusetts requires,” Frisoli said. “The NEHBPA has been bargaining for 100 days, and prior to the vote, would not accept a contract unless it required 100 days in 2011.” The attorney explained that the horsemen have made a “significant concession” to now agree to race for a minimum of 80 days in 2011, provided that Suffolk is able to get the current law changed.
If the state law remains unchanged, the horsemen accept the $8.25 million that was to be distributed over 80 days will instead be allocated over the 100 days. “We are prepared to race for the same amount of money they proposed,” said Frisoli. “Whether we end up racing for $80,000 a day, $90,000, or $100,000 remains to be seen based upon what the law is and the number of days. If Suffolk is successful with their legislation, then we’ll have fewer days.”
In the absence of a deal, the horsemen are waiting for Suffolk to respond formally to the latest developments.
“We have struggled hard to get to an accommodation so that we can race in 2011,” said Frisoli, who is also a Thoroughbred owner. “This type of disagreement is destructive to the industry. I hope that Suffolk Downs will elect to go forward with this (proposal). At least we have a framework to move forward.”