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Dispute delays simulcasts

June 22, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A contract dispute at Penn National Race Course has led horsemen to block a simulcast racing signal from a sister track in Charles Town, a Penn National official said Tuesday.

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Simulcasting involves sending a signal to other tracks by satellite. Charles Town recently starting simulcasting to other tracks so fans in those locations could bet on its races.

Horsemen at Penn National were working with track owners on their live racing contract when several unresolved issues arose, said Joe Santanna, president of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association at Penn National.

The contract negotiations finally went to arbritration for a settlement, Santanna said.

Hoewever, until the horsemen could get the agreement they wanted on the unresolved issues, they pulled the plug April 30 on three simulcast racing signals at Penn National, including the one from Charles Town, said Santanna. Penn National owns Charles Town Races.

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The impact on Charles Town Races, if any, is difficult to measure since the track just started simulcasting on June 5.

Santanna said horsemen and track managers at Penn National have reached an agreement on the unresolved issues in their contract, and the Charles Town signal is expected to begin any day at Penn National.

Santanna said blocking Charles Town's signal was nothing against the local thoroughbred track. The move was simply a way for Penn National horsemen to gain leverage in the contract negotiations, said Santanna.

"Sometimes you just need to do what needs to be done," Santanna said.

Penn National officials could not be reached for comment.

Charles Town's signal was not being simulcast at Penn National as of Monday night, said Bill Bork Jr., director of marketing at Charles Town.

It could begin as early as today, Bork said.

"I just hope they get their differences resolved and get on with business," said Dick Watson, president of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association at Charles Town.

Charles Town recently starting simulcasting its races to 13 tracks in the country. With higher purses attracting better horses at the oval, track officials believed racing fans across the country could be attracted by the local races.

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