Updated as of 1:21 p.m. EDT, Saturday, March 28. Based on a MidAtlantic Cooperative release
Let the wagering begin.
Monarch Content Management — which controls the simulcast signal for all of the Stronach Group tracks, including Laurel and Pimlico locally, as well as Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita — and the MidAtlantic Cooperative, which represents numerous flat and harness tracks in the East and Midwest, have agreed to end their months-long standoff.
“Pursuant to the agreement,” the companies’ joint release said, “patrons attending wagering facilities operated by MidAtlantic members may begin wagering on Monarch content immediately.”
Phil O’Hara, executive director of the MidAtlantic Cooperative, said in an interview that “all terms of the agreement between Monarch and Mid-Atlantic are confidential,” though he did confirm that it is a multi-year agreement.
In addition to the Stronach properties, Monarch also represents Tampa Bay Downs, Turf Paradise, and The Meadowlands.
The MidAtlantic Cooperative is a purchasing cooperative that seeks to negotiate on its members’ behalf for the best possible rates on simulcast signals. It represents 22 facilities, including Thoroughbred tracks, harness tracks, and even the long-shuttered Rockingham Park, a former racetrack which continues to have simulcast wagering.
The standoff began in early December, when, according to Monarch, the Cooperative “voluntarily” pulled Monarch signals in the face of an impasse over a new contract. The major sticking point, sources have said, is that Monarch believes that some MidAtlantic members — particularly those that are not Thoroughbred tracks — should pay higher rates than others. That, says MidAtlantic, would violate its charter.
That left MidAtlantic member facilities with light simulcast menus. Meanwhile, however, Laurel Park general manager Sal Sinatra, whose track is under the Monarch umbrella, said that the loss of wagering from MidAtlantic tracks had actually been a net gain for his track, because it had chased some bettors into advance deposit wagering accounts. The split of the takeout with advance deposit wagering companies is typically more favorable to host tracks than is the split with bricks-and-mortar off-track betting facilities.
While the standoff continued, bettors at many regional racetracks have been unable to play the Monarch tracks, a particularly frustrating development given that Gulfstream, Santa Anita, and Tampa Bay are among the more popular winter signals.
Fans and bettors were not shy about expressing their displeasure, calling Monarch president Scott Daruty and MidAtlantic executive director Phil O’Hara “morons” who have “held the horseplayers of this country hostage.”
One commenter on The Racing Biz seemingly spoke for many, writing, “A few weeks we understand, but this is ridiculous now!”
The agreement arrives just in time for many bettors, as the Triple Crown prep season is heating up. The agreement will enable players to wager on tomorrow’s Gulfstream Park card, including the Grade 1 Florida Derby.
Parx Racing, Penn National, Charles Town Races, Delaware Park, and Colonial Downs are all among the MidAtlantic Cooperative’s members.
“We’re glad to once again be able to provide Monarch’s simulcast content to our customers,” MidAtlantic’s O’Hara said.
Linda Dougherty of The Racing Biz contributed to this report.