For horse racing fans, it is a return to normalcy.
Area patrons have more tracks to wager on, Calder Race Course is sending its signal to other states, and horses at the Miami Gardens track are racing for extra money.
The 2 1/2-month dispute between Churchill Downs Inc. (Calder's parent company) and the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association over purses and future slot machine revenue is over. Contracts on both matters were signed July 7.
"Customers at ITW (intrastate) sites throughout Florida were being punished, and they had very little to do with the horsemen and their dispute with the purse contract (at Calder)," track spokeswoman Michele Blanco said. "It's better now that customers around the state can again bet on the races, not only from Calder, but from the tracks around the country that were withholding their signal before."
Until July 10, Tampa Bay Downs, Derby Lane and Tampa Greyhound Track were receiving limited thoroughbred simulcasts from Calder, which has live racing and serves as the host provider to state secondary sites. Horsemen's groups in some states, in an act of solidarity during the dispute, invoked their privileges under the Interstate Horseracing Act by blocking their racing signals into Florida. And Calder horsemen prevented their races from being sent outside the state (except to six New York City OTB outlets), but the product remained available to sites within Florida.
Blanco said horsemen at 10 tracks stopped signals into Florida: Beulah Park, River Downs and Thistledown in Ohio; Delaware Park; Pimlico in Maryland; Churchill Downs in Kentucky; Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania; Lone Star Park in Texas; Colonial Downs in Virginia; and Yavapai Downs in Arizona.
The contract boosts daily purses and increases some stakes money. The slot agreement guarantees Florida horsemen $14.375-million for purses in the first three years of the future slots operation at Calder and 6.75 percent of slot revenue for the remainder of the 10-year term.
"We estimate at this time that horsemen will benefit from CDI's investments to the tune of approximately $50-million, potentially, over the term of the agreement," CDI spokesman Kevin Flanery said in a release.
Advance-deposit wagering revenue remains an issue. The Thoroughbred Horsemen's Group, representing various associations including Tampa Bay Downs horsemen, is handling negotiations. Blanco said several hundred horses have been shipped from Calder since the meet began April 21. "We expect some to trickle back in."