ARLINGTON CONTRACT NEGOTIATION UPDATE MAY 1, 2012
Negotiations continue between ITHA and Arlington Park for the 2012 contract
between the horsemen and the track. On Saturday morning April 28th ITHA held a
meeting with horsemen at Hawthorne’s Expo Center to advise the horsemen of the
proposal put forth by ITHA and the response proposal from Arlington Park.
Arlington’s response proposal did not address any of the suggested modifications to
the 2011 Contract which were unanimously approved by your ITHA Board of
Arlington’s response would have the horsemen signing away federal statutory rights,
state statutory rights, First Amendment rights and contractual rights and basically
stripped the horsemen of all input into racing and the race meet, in addition to limiting
and in some instances eliminating funding and shifting track costs to the horsemen.
Arlington’s response came with a unilateral deadline of Monday April 30th at 5pm
for ITHA to sign this proposal or Arlington would unilaterally cut purses from its
published Condition Book One by 20%. For further detail on both proposals see
our previous post on our website, itharacing.com.
On the evening of Saturday April 28 I met and had a conversation with Arlington Park
General manager Tony Petrillo, wherein we discussed the contract situation and
agreed to meet again on Sunday. On Sunday April 29th I had a two & one-half hour
meeting with Tony in further contract discussions. During that meeting I was advised
that none of ITHA’s suggested modifications would be discussed. At the end of
that meeting I was advised that Arlington had not come off its aforesaid proposal.
On Monday April 30th, ITHA and Arlington participated in a contested emergency
hearing before the Illinois Racing Board. The emegency was occasioned by Arlington
having mistakenly, and without IRB approval, scheduled racing for Wednesdays in
May and June prior to switching to Thursdays in July when Churchill Downs closes.
The dates awarded to Arlington in September of 2011 for the 2012 season were
Thursdays through Sundays all season long. Last year Arlington experimented with
Wednesdays in May and June only. Unfortunately, due to the fact that most tracks
around the country with four day schedules are dark on Wednesdays and run
Thursday through Sunday, particularly Hollywood Park in California where there are
no OTBs, the increase in 2011 over 2010 incoming simulcast handle was significantly
less than expected. And on-track handle, which generates the highest percentage to the
purse account, was down 25.9% comparing Wednesdays in 2011 to Thursdays in
The IRB staff recommended that the Board deny Arlington’s Thursday to Wednesday
request . This was based in part, on its projections that taxes payable to the IRB would
decrease $30,000, monies generated to the purse account would decrease $110,000,
purse recapture would increase, on-track attendance would decrease, and on-track
handle would decrease 25% for those days. The ITHA Board unanimously objected to
the Thursday to Wednesday switch and both President Mike Campbell and I testified
in opposition to the request yesterday afternoon.
In a 4-3 vote the IRB approved Arlington’s request.
Today, Tuesday May 1st, the ITHA Board is holding an emergency executive session
regarding the Arlington 2012 contract. IRB Chairman Bill Berry offered to mediate
this contract dispute all day today if necessary and ITHA agreed to participate but
Arlington has refused mediation. Arlington has not come off its initial proposal.
ITHA objects to threats to cut purses in the 1st Condition Book. The horsemen’s
purse account at Arlington has a balance of more than $24 million, most of which
came from the Molaro Impact Fees released in August 2011. Under the terms of the
2011Contract which was negotiated and signed by both the Track and ITHA last year
in anticipation of the release of the Impact Fees, those monies were to be spent over
the balance of the 2011 season and unexpended amounts paid during 2012 and 2013.
Arlington has chosen to utilize only one-third of the Impact Fee monies for 2012 in
setting its daily purse overnights. There is no reason for Arlington purses to be cut
at this time with the purse account we have. This is a tactical decision by Arlington.
The last seven contracts between ITHA and the tracks that I have been involved in
have been worked out in a matter of hours, including the Spring 2012 Hawthorne
Contract which I started and finished negotiating with Jim Miller on February 8, 2012
for the meeting that started nine days later.
Your ITHA Board will continue to negotiate in good faith while protecting the
rights of horsemen for this season and for seasons to come. We will keep you
advised through e-mails, notices and this website, itharacing.com, when there is an
update regarding the 2012 Arlington contract.
Glen Berman, ITHA Executive Director & General Counsel