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Still no VLT agreement between Northfield and OHHA
Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - by Tom LaMarra, USTA Web Newsroom Correspondent

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Columbus, OH --- The Ohio State Racing Commission on Wednesday (Aug. 27) put Hard Rock Rocksino at Northfield Park and the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association on notice that it is prepared to set a purse percentage for video lottery terminals if the two parties don’t hammer out a deal, and fast.

Ohio tracks have six months from the day of VLT activation to have an agreement for purses with the representative horsemen’s group. Northfield’s deadline passed about two months ago.

Northfield and the OHHA in June, at the last OSRC meeting, said issues are blocking an agreement. They said the same thing Aug. 27.

“We are continuing discussions, some in writing and some oral,” Tom Aldrich, vice chairman of Milstein Entertainment, told the commission. “I regret to inform you there are still issues that divide us. We aren’t there yet, but I don’t think it’s insurmountable. I’m optimistic we can get this done.”

“Sometime this century?” asked OSRC chairman Robert Schmitz, who noted the parties have had 60 days since the last commission meeting to strike a deal. “What seems to be the problem?”

“We just aren’t at a number that we believe will be consistent with the business plan we have,” Aldrich responded.

By state law the VLT share for purses must fall between a high of 11 percent and a low of nine percent. Until there is an agreement, the minimum of nine percent is set aside in an escrow account overseen by the OSRC for purse increases.

The Ohio tracks that have made numbers public pay 10 percent or more to purses. Aldrich confirmed a comment from Schmitz, who said Northfield earlier offered the OHHA less than nine percent.

“You do realize the number begins at nine percent?” Schmitz said. “It would violate the statute (if it’s lower). You’ve had 60 days. We want a number.”

Aldrich told the OSRC, “you can’t blame a party for trying to make a point during negotiations.” Aldrich then said that when Northfield began negotiating with the OHHA, he suggested the agreement with Northfield shouldn’t be similar to that of other harness tracks in the state because they each race half the dates Northfield does each year.

“We are a different racetrack,” Aldrich said.

OHHA executive director Jerry Knappenberger said the two parties are close to agreement on the VLT split, but other issues remain. They were not publicly discussed.

“Our patience is running out,” OSRC member Mark Munroe said. “We may be forced to take action on this perhaps as early as next month.”

The racing commission by law can select any number between 11 percent and nine percent. Thus far the VLT casino at Northfield is generating the highest monthly net win of the five Ohio tracks with VLTs.

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