By T. D. Thornton
Despite an active, ongoing lawsuit initiated by The Stronach Group (TSG) against the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) over a law requiring racetracks to contract with off-track betting (OTB) facilities for simulcasting as a condition of licensure, the Stronach-owned Golden Gate Fields is willing to comply with that law for the time being so that its Aug. 22-Oct. 2 racing meet won’t be scuttled.
Although regulators, track representatives, and OTB licensees more or less agreed at Thursday’s CHRB meeting that this was not an ideal scenario, the CHRB voted unanimously to approve Golden Gate’s license to race its upcoming meet so long as all of the under-negotiation simulcasting agreements are filed with the agency by next Wednesday, July 18.
“I recognize this is not a perfect solution,” said CHRB chairman Chuck Winner. “Wherever there are disagreements, you’re never going to get a perfect solution that’s going to satisfy everybody. It’s never going to happen. [But] the objective here…is to try to make sure that this summer meet is going to be run.”
Scott Daruty, the president at TSG’s Monarch Content Management, LLC, who spoke on behalf of Golden Gate, reported that he has a signed agreement in hand with the Sonoma County Fair simulcasting facility, and that TSG is engaged in an ongoing negotiations with the California Authority of Racing Fairs (CARF) that would cover other northern California OTB venues. He added that the two parties have arrived at an “agreement in principal” that is “99% reflective” of what a finished contract will look like.
Daruty told The Paulick Report last week that TSG believes the OTB network in northern California is “outdated, inefficient and ineffective. We have ideas how it can be better structured, but the CHRB has mandated that we have to do everything the old way. The purpose of the lawsuit is to get a court to interpret how the law works.”
Larry Swartzlander, the CARF executive director, expressed concerns at the meeting that even if this short-term agreement salvages the upcoming meet, he is concerned the exact same issues will arise again when Golden Gate’s next license application rolls around, triggering a “kicking the can down the road again” repeat of the impasse.
Greg Avioli, president and chief executive officer the Thoroughbred Owners of California, said “We do support the deal as the best alternative in the midst of a bunch of not-great alternatives.”