Horsemen’s contract expired 1/29, VRC to attempt to broker VHBPA/CD Agreement Today

While the horsemen’s contract with Colonial Downs expired on Wednesday night (January 29), both VHBPA Executive Director Frank Petramalo and Virginia Racing Commission Executive Secretary Bernie Hettel remain confident that a deal will be reached that will permit racing at Colonial Downs in 2014.

“The likelihood is very, very high that there will be thoroughbred racing in 2014 at Colonial Downs,” Petramalo said on Thursday. “The question is, what’s it going to look like? Is it going to be four weeks, five weeks, six weeks, eight weeks?”

Up until this point, the VHBPA has requested eight weeks of racing to include between 24 to 32 race days, while Colonial Downs has stood firm on 25 days of racing over five weekends, which represents the same schedule as 2013.

Petramalo will be leaving the country for three weeks on Sunday, effectively putting negotiations in a holding pattern if a deal is not struck today.

“I’ve reached out to Frank Petramalo this morning and all my commission members to try to see if we can come to some kind of resolution by close of business today,” Hettel said. “I’d much rather try to get this done before Frank gets on the airplane. We’ll see if I can’t be more persuasive than I’ve been. I’m hopeful it will get done today.”

Petramalo said by email that he is less confident that the conflict will reach resolution today.

“I don’t think a deal will be reached by the end of the day, or anytime in the next few weeks,” Petramalo said. “Nonetheless, I still believe that a deal will ultimately be reached permitting racing this summer.”

In the event a deal is not made before Petramalo’s departure, Hettel is seeking the advice of the Attorney General with regards to Colonial’s right to continue to operate its simulcast facilities.

“I may be in a position to ask Colonial Downs to cease and desist operations in terms of OTBs, simulcast facilities. We don’t want to do that,” Hettel said. “The VHBPA can’t call anybody, but the national HBPA can, and once the national HBPA is aware of a lack of contractual agreement in Virginia they then may alert other jurisdictions to tell them not to send the signal (to Colonial Downs).”

Petramalo espoused a similar analysis of the situation:

“The way I read the law that means Colonial cannot operate its off-track wagering facilities (in the absence of a contract),” Petramalo said. “It’s quite likely that horsemen’s organizations throughout the country, when they hear there’s no agreement, might cut off their signals to Colonial. It’s horsemen helping horsemen.”

Colonial Downs President Ian Stewart announced on the Colonial website that it will not offer wagering on thoroughbred racing at its satellite facilities, but that customers could still wager on thoroughbreds through the four licensed account wagering providers EZ Horseplay, TVG, Xpressbet and Twinspires.

“Despite extensive efforts by Colonial Downs to reach a compromise, the VaHBPA has refused to sign a new contract,” Stewart said in the release. “Consequently, we believe that our ability to accept wagers on thoroughbred races at our satellite wagering facilities may be severely restricted. We believe customers can continue to wager on thoroughbred horse races through account wagering and can continue to wager on standardbred racing in the SWFs.”

Check back at close of business today for more news. Click here to read the VHBPA’s open letter.