The 2015 Harness Horsemen International’s Annual Meeting was held from March 1-4, 2015 in Deerfield Beach Florida. President Tom Cooke and Executive Vice President Sharon Roberts represented CSOA. This report is Tom Cooke’s reflection/comments/research on what took place over the three days of meetings. As you will read herein, CSOA was able to offer two Motions that received unanimous approval.
The 2015 Conference began with each of the represented associations making a brief presentation of the status of Standardbred racing in their state.
- 20 years of slots revenue
- VLT revenue is down
- High concentration of casinos in neighboring states
- 188 days of racing in 2015 (down 25% from the past)
- Decline in horse population
- Dover: 5 days a week
- Harrington: 4 days a week
- Expanded Sports Wagering? Currently, Delaware has a very limited system of sports wagering.
Illinois (very sad story)
- Relies on handle
- 190 days of racing in 2015
- Balmoral Park: 96 days of racing
- Maywood Park: 96 days of racing
- Maywood may not open in the 2nd half of the year
- 2005: 30 M in purses
- 2015: 10 M in purses
- 50% of the funds go back to the race tracks
- Maywood Park/Balmoral Park’s owner was found guilty of federal racketeering with ex-governor
- $26 M judgment was x 3 (triple damages) = $78 M
- $78 M owed to the riverboat
- This matter is in Bankruptcy Court now
- The Illinois HHA is part of the court process
- Approved for HHI membership (March 2015)
- Did not attend the 2015 Conference
Kentucky (historical racing is the focus)
- The exciting news is the future of historical racing machines at the Red Mile
- The new facility ($30 M) is being built now
- 30 days of racing at the Red Mile in 2015; the number was 22 days in 2014
- Thunder Ridge (Western, KY): Closed
- The TR license was purchased by Keenland for a Quarter Horse meet in Corbin, KY.
- The KY harness horsemen have claimed a cause of action against TR for the loss of the harness license … for years, the horsemen contributed to the track’s purse account
- Kentucky Downs (Franklin): Instant Racing Machines
- Ellis Park (Henderson): Instant Racing Machines
- The Red Mile (established 9/28/1975) (Lexington) has been approved for Historical Racing (Instant Racing Machines)
- $25 M investment
- 48,000 sq. ft. building is currently under construction
- 500 machines, sports bar, race track viewing area
- Keenland has been approved for Historical Racing
- 40,000 sq. ft. building
- 600 machines
Note: To date, no historical racing machines have Harness racing … only Thoroughbred racing
- KY Downs (Ft. Campbell, KY)
- 1st location to have historical racing machines
- This track may move to Standardbred racing
- A 4-Year deal is in the works
- 15-days a year of racing
- 15-days of racing
- New Executive Director (Jason), Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association
- Racino: Bangor, Maine
- Casino: Oxford, Maine
- Purse $ is down 3%
- Overall revenue is down
- 218 days of racing in 2015
- 104 days of racing at Scarborough Downs (1950)
- 55 days of racing at Bangor
- 9 fairs offering 58 days of racing
- A company named Whitesand Gaming has completed a study on casino growth in Maine
- The study concluded that there is room for two more casinos in Maine
- The independent study cost $150,000
- Maine has OTBs
- Slots revenue is down
- Pari-Mutual revenue is down
- There are 10 casinos within 2 hours of the race track
- Horsemen’s board voted to reduce the number of races (was 15 a day)
- 208 days of racing … with fewer races
- Dave Palone continues to be the big attraction at the Meadows
Michigan (very sad story)
- A very sad situation. Limited racing opportunities.
- Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association
- Horsemen have to pay $8,000 a day out of the available purse account to race at Northville
- Horsemen have been forced to get out of the business, relocate their operations or ship long distances to race
Minnesota (small time industry)
- Card clubs give 90% of the purse funds
- Running Aces has 240 stalls; there are very few farms in the area of the race track
- Running Aces Harness Park
- June 6 – September 12
- 4 days a week
- There are only 75 USTA members who claim to live in Minnesota
- There is only 1 full-time harness horseman in Minnesota
- Breeder awards are very low. In 2014, one horsemen received a check for .79
- Minnesota Harness Racing, Inc.
- Canterberry Park (TBs) has an agreement with an Indian tribe that runs a casino (Mystic Lake Casino/Hotel)
- TB racing from May 15 – September 12
- 33 poker tables
- Mystic Lake Casino
- Pull Tabs
New Jersey (uncertainty seems to prevail)
- Under continued pressure <
- Revenue is down <
- Nov 2015 referendum for casinos outside Atlantic City
- The Meadowlands will face competition for any new location in Northern New Jersey
- The new racing facility at the Meadowlands cost $110 M
- The Meadowlands has an agreement with the State of New Jersey that IF the Meadowlands does not get a casino … the State must pay Jeff Gural (73) $110 M
- 4 casinos have closed in Atlantic City <
- Rebel Hotel/Casino just sold (Toranto based, Brookfield Asset Management) for $110 M. It cost $2.4B to build the facility. The hotel/casino closed on 9/2/14.
- Meadowlands: 82 days of harness racing and 14 days of Thoroughbred grass racing.
- Horse shortage
- Freehold: 110 days of racing
- Jeff Gural and Monach/Stronach Group
- Currently, the Monarch Content Management Group has prevented the live signal from Stronach-owned race tracks to Rosecroft and Mid-Atlantic Cooperative race tracks
- The Monarch/Stronach Group owns a large number of important race tracks:
- Santa Anita
- Tampa Bay Downs
- Golden Gate Fields
- In addition to its race track collection, Stronach owns Xpress Bet.com.
- The Mid-Atlantic Cooperative (23 race tracks).This entity is a “purchasing coperative.”
- The theory behind the cooperative is that in numbers there is bargaining strength.
- Executive Director, Phil O’Hara
- 12 of the 23 race tracks are harness
- Mid-Atlantic members have traditionally paid premium rates to the affiliated tracks
Commentary: It is my opinion that Jeff Gural, who is certainly affected by the dispute, has been working to break up the Mid-Atlantic Cooperative. Gural was recently quoted as suggesting that Rosecroft was at the center of the dispute.
- New Jersey Bets program sold to TVG
- Lots of complaints over the ABC system – both tracks have returned (Feb 2015) to writing condition races
OHIO (THE BIG WINNER: AGAIN)
- It took over 10 years for Ohio to get where it is today
- The effort started in 2002
- High praise for the current Governor, John Kasich
- VLTs at 7 race tracks
- 3 Harness
- 4 TB
- 2,500 mares bred in 2014
- 2-year old population:
- 2013: 376
- 2014: 450
- 2015: 930
- 2016: 1100
- 65 county fairs
- 60/65 have pari-mutual wagering
- 1,900 members of the horsemen’s association. In 2000, there were 3,000 members
- $4,000 in sulky insurance
- Not present at conference
- Fair racing only
2015 HHI Meeting Highlights
At the 2015 HHI Annual Meeting, CSOA proposed two Motions each of which received a unanimous vote of approval:
Motion 1: The Race Tracks be financially responsible for the on-track drivers’ insurance
Tom Cooke will propose a USTA Rule change in 2016.
Motion 2: The respective parties to the Mid-Atlantic Coalition and Monarch dispute are encouraged to reach a settlement for the benefit of the race tracks, the horsemen and the betting public
A panel discussion on Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission’s NEW policy (November 1, 2014) on:
- The Use of the Whip Policy.
- The Pylon Policy
- Giving Holes/Making Room Policy
- Driving/Racing Violation Penalty Matrix
Dr. Mary Robinson, University of Pennsylvania, New Bolton Center “Equine Drug testing in the 21st Century”
- The new equipment is incredible and very, very expensive
- PHHA donated $470,000 to help purchase a state-of-the-art spectrometer.
- Other groups (Meadows SOA and Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association) also contributed.
- New Bolton is authorized to work with Pennsylvania race tracks only.
- PA collects 4 tubes of blood (1 tube stays at the track)
- Robinson quoted Dr. Lawrence Soma as suggesting that while TC02 levels may be raised by the using of baking soda, no one has ever proven its impact on performance. Note: This is what I understood Dr. Robinson to be saying. I have not been able to find an evidence of this position/conclusion in my internet research.
- Robinson spent a considerable amount of time discussing the COBALT issue.
- Robinson identified the following substances as having COBALT in them:
- Red Cell
- VIT B12
- Vitamin supplements
- Sweet Feed
- VITA 15 **This Commercial product appears to have the highest concentration of COBALT.**
- New Bolton is currently undertaking a COBALT study.
Jerome L. Hauck Scholarship (HHI)
Deadline: May 1
Amount of Scholarship: $4,000 ($2,000 over 2 years)
- Child of a full-time groom and a member of an HHI association (CSOA is a member). Children of CSOA members are eligible.
- Education Level: High school senior or 1st or 2nd year college student
- Financial Need: Will be considered
Please contact the CSOA Office for an application.
 In order to understand what Gural is thinking and saying you need to appreciate the fact that Penn National and the Maryland Thoroughbred industry are currently in arbitration (Cross Breed Agreement) over the signal issue on the Maryland State level. While that simulcasting dispute is separate from the Stronach-Mid Atlantic dispute, in a certain way they are indeed connected. Under the Cross-Breed Agreement, Rosecroft continues to receive the Laurel signal while the matter is in arbitration. Stronach is tying the two separate agreements together. Gural appears to siding with Stronach on this issue. Obviously, Gural is being hurt financially by his inability to send the Meadowlands signal to the Mid-Atlantic Cooperative race tracks – Rosecroft and Ocean Downs being members. Ocean Downs & Rosecroft-Penn National Gaming are being hurt financially by the inability to receive the simulcating signal from Meadowlands, Santa Anita and Gullstream among others.
 My independent research suggests that there is a split of opinion on the subject of “milkshaking.” Higher TC02 levels may help to limit muscle fatigue and increase endurance.
 The recommended usage is 2 X a week. The COBALT takes a long time to be eliminated from the blood.