Colonial Downs, VHBPA to Meet with Mediator on Days

The VHBPA and Colonial Downs will meet with a mediator in the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond on Wednesday, March 12, to attempt to resolve the days dispute. (Wikipedia)

The VHBPA and Colonial Downs will meet with a mediator in the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond on Wednesday, March 12, to attempt to resolve the days dispute. (Wikipedia)

The Virginia HBPA and Colonial Downs will meet with a mediator from the McCammon Group on Wednesday to try to reach an agreement on days. The mediator is retired federal magistrate judge Dennis Dohnal, who has worked with both groups on other cases prior to this mediation.

Newly-appointed Secretary of Commerce Maurice Jones has also gotten actively involved (although the Virginia legislature recently voted to move the Virginia Racing Commission from the Department of Commerce to the Department of Agriculture, the change will not take place most likely until summer 2014; the dispute therefore remains under the purview of the Department of Commerce).

On February 14, Jones had a conference call with representatives from Colonial Downs, the VHBPA and the VRC, and has subsequently met with both Colonial Downs and the VHBPA individually. According to VHBPA Executive Director Frank Petramalo, at that stage, the VRC decided to recruit a professional mediator to try to resolve the dispute.

According to Petramalo, at that stage Colonial Downs was willing to run a seven-week, 28-day meet if the horsemen paid approximately $300,000 of Colonial’s normal overhead expenses, such as the cost of the ambulance, manure removal and stall rent. The VHBPA countered with “savings we thought would yield $150,000,” according to Petramalo.

Petramalo is “pessimistic” that Colonial will accept a deal due to the losses Colonial has likely experienced following the shut-down of its simulcast wagering facilities (which began with the horseman’s contract expired after several extensions on January 29).

“My estimate is that is cost the horseman’s purse account in excess of $200,000, and it probably cost Colonial Downs a little more,” Petramalo said. “My feeling is that the first thing out of Ian Stewart’s mouth on Wednesday, is that he wants to recover his lost money, which is going to make reaching a deal for 2014 even more difficult than it currently is.”

“The impression I have is that Colonial is digging its heels in,” Petramalo continued. “I don’t think they’re in the mood to be conciliatory.”

VRC Executive Secretary expressed similar doubts surrounding the future of a 2014 deal:

“A month ago, I thought we would have made better progress than we’ve made,” Hettel said. “I’m disappointed in everyone that we haven’t come to a conclusion. I’m beyond speculating (on the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting).”

The meeting will take place at 9 AM in the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond on Wednesday, March 12.