by Linda Dougherty
Simulcast players in the mid-Atlantic region who have been feeling the sting of not being able to watch and wager on tracks such as Gulfstream Park, Santa Anita and Laurel Park for the last several months may soon have reason to celebrate.
The impasse between Monarch Content Management, which controls the rights to more than a dozen racetracks, including those owned by the Stronach Group, and the Mid Atlantic Cooperative, a purchasing collective of 22 Thoroughbred and standardbred tracks that joined together in 1999 to increase their leverage in simulcast negotiations, could be on the brink of resolution, leaders of both organizations indicated February 5.
The dispute, which came to a head in early December with Monarch pulling its signals from Mid Atlantic members after negotiations for a new agreement with Mid Atlantic broke down, is chiefly over rate increases and who pays them.
It’s come at a time when the current crop of 3-year-olds are gearing up for the Triple Crown in major prep races contested at Stronach venues, and has been a source of irritation for many horseplayers in the affected regions.
In addition to Gulfstream, Santa Anita and Laurel Park, Mid Atlantic member tracks – including Parx Racing and Penn National in Pennsylvania, Delaware Park, Charles Town, and numerous harness tracks and other facilities – have been unable to offer wagering on Golden Gate, Tampa Bay, Los Alamitos, the Meadowlands, Portland Meadows, and Turf Paradise.
“We’re continuing to talk with the Mid Atlantic Cooperative,” said Scott Daruty, president of Monarch, on February 5. “We’ve exchanged proposals in the last week or so, and we’re working towards a resolution. We realize fans are being inconvenienced and want them back wagering on our racetracks.”
“We’ve moved the needle on several issues,” said Phil O’Hara, the executive director of the Mid Atlantic Cooperative, who characterized the sides as “close.” He added, “We’re making good progress.”
Neither would specify those areas on which there has been progress.
Many Mid Atlantic tracks have taken a significant hit on their simulcast business, especially because warm-weather sites such as Gulfstream and Santa Anita are so popular during the winter with horseplayers in cold weather climates.
On the flip side, however, Laurel Park has been experiencing an uptick in business.
“We are actually up handle-wise a few points, and, after 24 consecutive months of being down, are actually up every month since December,” said Sal Sinatra, vice president of the Maryland Jockey Club. “We have met several players from Delaware that have driven down on the weekends. Gulfstream and Santa Anita are up as well. It looks as though money has been shifting to the ADWs from the mid-Atlantic tracks, and we are benefitting.”
Chris McErlean, vice president of Penn National Gaming, said he wasn’t authorized to speak about business at Penn National properties since not being able to offer Monarch products.
But O’Hara said that nearly every Mid Atlantic member has been challenged during the signal blackout.
“When you factor in all the cancellations of live racing due to bad weather, they’ve really been impacted,” said O’Hara.
Prior to the closure of Atlantic City Race Course on January 16, the Mid Atlantic Cooperative represented 23 members, including Parx Racing, Penn National, Freehold Raceway, Delaware Park, Charles Town, Colonial Downs, Pocono Downs, Harrah’s Philadelphia, Dover Downs, Harrington Raceway, Ocean Downs, Suffolk Downs, Rockingham Park, Rosecroft, Sam Houston, Thistledown, Mahoning Valley Race Course, Dayton Raceway, Northfield Park, Retama Park, Belterra Park and Plainridge Race Course.
One of the key sticking points in the Monarch-Mid Atlantic dispute is that Monarch feels too many members of the Cooperative do not present live Thoroughbred racing, and thus retain more takeout than those that do present live Thoroughbred racing, who have to split takeout with horsemen for purses.
Daruty had previously stated that Monarch was seeking to change the structure of the contract in order to charge some sites, specifically those that do not offer live Thoroughbred racing, a higher rate than others.
Mid Atlantic has countered by stating that it has accepted premium pricing for Monarch content since its first year in existence, and that many of its non-Thoroughbred members pay millions of dollars by statute or contract to Thoroughbred purse funds and breeding programs. It has not thus far been willing to agree to different rates for different members.
The Stronach Group also owns HRTV and the account wagering company XpressBet.com, which means that it could potentially benefit from the Mid Atlantic blackout. If a Mid Atlantic customer does not face a state-based restriction, he or she can open an account with Xpressbet.com and wager on the Monarch tracks.
There are no restrictions in Delaware or Virginia; in Pennsylvania, however, residents located within 35 miles of Parx, Penn National, Pocono Downs, Harrah’s Philadelphia, or Presque Isle Downs are prohibited from opening Xpressbet.com accounts. New Jersey allows account wagering only through its 4NJBets.com website, thus precluding an Xpressbet account. Other advance deposit wagering companies also afford access to Monarch tracks.
Of course, many bettors prefer the off-track facility experience, rather than wagering online. Angry horseplayers have contacted O’Hara directly about their inability to wager on the top-class racing that many Monarch tracks offer.
“I have talked to many of them; as a horseplayer myself, I understand where they’re coming from,” said O’Hara.
what a disgrace you already have lost between 30-35%of your fan base…to hole the great horseplayers of this country hostage ;it is all about greed the racing industry wants people to join express bet;;tvg;;hrtv which amounts to illegal bookmaking that;s all that is since dec.1st you low life bastards can’t settle this minor issue maybe you will get the signal up by the Kentucky derb;;;;you are low lifes everybody involved……I quit the horse playing them over fifty years….albert F
I feel your pain. I know change is difficult, but I would be more than happy to help you set up an ADW account. My email is [email protected], and my phone number is 302-864-7174. It’s easy, and you can get a rebate on every dollar you bet! Call any time.
Hey Albert, stop being a grumpy old man. Your phone call was rude and ignorant. Where in my post does it say I work for the co-op or the involved tracks? I realize I opened myself up to this, but pretty cowardly of you to block your phone number after leaving your nasty voice mail.
your are a liar I left phone numbers and e-mail some low life greedy scumbags bastards won’t return my calls stop lying I spoke to someone very close to the negotiating and he told they want 20% it used to be three %oercent all you low life scoundrels scumbags call me back I dare you I dare you …albert
I sent e-mails one to O’Hara & Duruty voicing my displeasure over the impasse. O”Hara never responded. Don”t know what horseplayers he is talking to. At least Monarch reponded.
What’d they say?
Nothing is more frustrating to see articles stating they are close to a compromise, but nothing! Something has to give…I am close to just walking away from the game. I love racing. However, this big impasse has caused me to miss great racing from Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park. Can’t stand betting on Penn National’s 30% takeout on most exotics. Like I said…I am about to get away from this game. Damn Shame on MidAtlantic Cooperative and Monarch for having it come down to this.
Thanks for checking in, Rick. Can’t blame you, either – the racing fans and bettors always lose while this stuff goes on.
I have been watching this crap since December and it shocks me that’s it taken so long but Monarch has this one by the balls considering they are the ones with the live racing worth betting on! All I can say is that this will be fixed by Florida derby only for the simple reason that by that point the turf racing will begin outside of Florida and California and leverage will begin to slip.
Are we any closer to a solution? It is driving me crazy because this sport is not exactly in great shape and they are chasing whoever is left away for good.
It’s now March 1st. Boy is your information source bad!
That’ll teach us to interview the people doing the negotiating!
Haven’t heard any news on simulcasting agreement between Monarch Group and Mid-Atlantic! Can you provide me with an update to negotiations ?
When our reporter checked in with him last week, I think they were still ironing out “details.” We’ll check in again soon and see what the latest is.
Will this dispute be over before the Florida Derby? I hope for themid Atlantic fans like myself. We have already missed. Lot of good racing. Thanks for looking into it for us.
What a group of morons. Killing the goose that lays the golden egg. In case no one has noticed, racing is a dying sport. How do you change that condition? Duh…make the sport available to the maximum degree, especially to youth.
Yet what do these track Coopts do? Not that. Instead, they choose to reduce the availability. Just brilliant. And you wonder why your sport is a dead man walking. Morons.
On the steve byk radio show the monach said that Penn National is the hold out . that does not surprise me .It is just a there page out of the Penn National customer service book
Here in Texas things are uglier than most since some states allow bettors to open an online account and do some internet gambling over TVG, Twinspires, etc. But here in TX the state legislature also banned online gambling. So having Retama and San Houston with a very limited simulcast card is a double whammy for the state and track revenues. So people like me that goes on Fri and Sat to have a few hrs at the ponies and bet on Gulfstream on Santa Anita have not visited the racetrack since last Dec.