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Copyright 2012 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Horse Racing Simulcasts in Montana  

Could Return Soon

By Phil Drake, Staff Reporter for Montana Watchdog, Helena, MT

[Reprinted with Permission; original article dated April 16, 2012]

 

May 2012 issue

 

            After a four-month hiatus, the horses may once again be lining up at the gate. Montana ’s simulcast horse racing program could return to some locations as early as April 23, as a Missoula casino may take over the reins of the off-track betting that halted late last year when officials learned the program had incurred at $605,000 deficit.

            Dale Mahlum, chairman of the Board of Horse Racing (BOHR), told Montana Watchdog on Monday that Nick Alonzo, manager of Katie O’Keefes Casino in Missoula , had approached the state about bringing back racing four days a week at seven sites in Montana .

            Mahlum said the contract was submitted to the state and should be signed shortly.

            Christian Mackay, director of the Board of Livestock, which administratively aids the BOHR, was not immediately available for comment Monday.

            “I am tickled to death,” Mahlum said about the possible return of simulcasts. “These people put a lot of money into the sites and they yanked them down. We should be able to get them up this weekend.”

            Alonzo told Montana Watchdog last week he was hopeful the state would give him approval to offer the services to various sites throughout the state, but warned it was too early to confirm.

            “I wish I could say more,” Alonzo said. “We’re kind of in limbo now. We are moving forward and waiting for a couple things to happen. I’ve been in business long enough to know there’s no deal until there’s a deal.”

            In December 2011, the board suspended simulcasting for what it hoped would be two months while an advisory committee appointed by the governor tried to determine why the board had lost $609,638 operating off-track betting at eight sites in Billings, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell and Missoula. Officials reportedly cannot find six of the eight vendor contracts.

            The board, administratively linked to the Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL), began managing simulcasting in November 2010, after ending its contract with Montana Entertainment, which had taken over in 2009. Prior to that, the state had a longtime contract with a nonprofit group, Montana Simulcast Partners, which reportedly had successfully managed the racing.

            At its March 8, 2012, meeting, the board approved allowing MDOL staff to pursue a “loan” from the Department of Administration (DOA) to pay off the deficit, which had been estimated at one time to be $614,249. Officials said the BOHR had to resolve the financial shortfall by June 30, 2012, the end of the fiscal year.

            George Harris, DOL administrator, told the BOHR it had eight years to repay the loan to the state, and added the first payment was due in a little over two months. He also noted that none of the money could be used for operational costs.

            At an earlier meeting, Harris suggested using revenue from fantasy sports and advanced deposit wagering to pay the loans.

            At its April 2, 2012, meeting, the board asked staff to ask the DOA for a one-year extension on its first loan payment of $76,200, saying it needed that much time to get the money together.

            Tom Tucker, a previous simulcast operator hired through a grant, has been analyzing BOHR’s financial information, trying to determine how the deficit occurred. He told the board at its April 2 meeting it should consider getting the simulcast up for the Triple Crown – horse racing’s Kentucky Derby (May 5), Preakness (May 19) and Belmont (June 9) races – and have simulcasts four days a week instead of seven.

            Tucker declined an invitation by Mahlum to operate the simulcast program. Several of the casino owners, listening to the meeting via telephone, told the board they would come back to the board with a proposal at its next meeting.

 

            Montana Watchdog has been closely following the progress of the Montana Board of Horse Racing and the financial woes of Montana ’s horse racing industry. For comprehensive articles which outline the issues and history over the past six months, visit www.montanawatchdog.org.

 

Montana Board of Horse Racing Goals & Objectives:

     In order to fulfill its mission the Board of Horse Racing is committed to achieving the following goals and objectives:

     To monitor and regulate the horse racing industry in Montana; to allow the racing industry, both live and simulcast, to grow and perform at a level which would be beneficial to all racing interests in the State of Montana while at the same time providing and promoting public confidence. Economic impacts include Montana's agricultural sector, county fairgrounds, and the communities (lodging, meals, supplies, feed, etc.) in which race meets are held.

 

 

Copyright 2012 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

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