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OSRC to Miami Valley Gaming and Racing: No clerks, no racing permit
Thursday, December 19, 2013 - by Tom LaMarra, USTA Web Newsroom Correspondent

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Columbus, OH --- The Ohio State Racing Commission on Thursday (Dec. 19) postponed granting a new racetrack gaming facility a 2014 racing permit because its owners have decided not to have pari-mutuel clerks for live or simulcast racing.

 
Tom LaMarra photo
Miami Valley Gaming and Racing opened Dec. 12 with video lottery terminals and full-card simulcasts.

Miami Valley Gaming and Racing opened Dec. 12 with video lottery terminals and full-card simulcasts. The facility, which replaces nearby Lebanon Raceway, is scheduled to begin live harness racing in early February.

OSRC executive director Bill Crawford said he visited Miami Valley, which is owned by Churchill Downs Inc. and Delaware North Companies, soon after it opened and found there were only self-service machines in the simulcast room. There were at least 70 patrons in the room, he said.

“I was told there would be no tellers for the simulcast or the live racing product,” Crawford told the commission. “A lot of Miami Valley people are upset and are now going to River Downs (for full-card simulcasts).”

Crawford said it’s not unusual for tracks to reduce the number of pari-mutuel clerks if business warrants during certain days or times, but every other Ohio racetrack has clerks.

“Isn’t it true even our smallest fairs have mutuel clerks?” OSRC member Mark Munroe said.

Jim Simms, general manager of Miami Valley, said the owners wanted to try a new approach geared toward more technology and less labor costs. He said the Lebanon Raceway operation, which employed clerks, “lost a lot of money, so the goal for this operation was to be on the cutting edge of technology.”

Simms said Miami Valley does have employees on hand to teach horseplayers how to use their mobile devices to wager.

“Technology is something we can’t stop,” he said. “No doubt the approach we’re taking is radical. It’s also a labor issue. It’s intense, and we’re trying to reduce labor.”

The OSRC wasn’t satisfied. Chairman Robert Schmitz told Simms to talk to his superiors and arrange a meeting with some commissioners to discuss “the proper mix of pari-mutuel clerks and self-service machines.”

The track has a deal with the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association for racing dates in 2014, but its needs the permit from the OSRC.

“If someone had said to the commission, ‘We’re not having pari-mutuel clerks,’ the red flag would have gone up,” Schmitz said.

After the meeting, Chris McErlean, vice president of racing for Penn National Gaming Inc., said the company’s new racetrack gaming facility in Dayton will employee pari-mutuel clerks, though he said the number would depend on business levels. The harness track is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.


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