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Idaho HBPA holds meeting, issues statement

October 30, 2010     E-mail this page to a friend!

President Ken Elison started the general meeting of the Idaho Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (IHBPA) on October 29 with a few opening remarks and presented Board member Tim Elison, who detailed the IHBPA financial statement, which was healthier than many members expected.

Elison also distributed a notice to its members regarding negotiations with Idaho Entertainment.

"Negotiations are at a stalemate," Elison admitted before reading aloud the final paragraph of the notice, which outlines the IHBPA's contract requirements. "These are all principles we can agree upon," Elison concluded.

IHBPA's legal counsel Mia Murphy provided a review of the effort by another horsemen's group—the Idaho Horsemen's Association (IHA)—to decertify the IHBPA and the IHBPA's response to the IHA's legal proceedings.

"A proposal for live, simulcast & advanced deposit wagering for Les Bois Park" was also presented by Jim Bernard of IdaRacing at Sandy Downs at the request of the IHBPA.

For members who could not attend the meeting, the text of the notice, unedited and in its entirety, is reprinted below:

For those of you who have ever run horses or even attended races at Les Bois Park in Boise, Idaho, you are well aware that live horse racing has not been conducted since 2008. Since that time we have been inundated with news stories and rumors as to the reasons why we’re not racing. Some of these stories and rumors are true, many are not. Speaking for the Idaho Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (the IHBPA), the group that is recognized by Idaho State Statute as the only representative group of the horsemen at Les Bois Park, we believe that it is time that you know the “rest of the story,” or in this case, the true story.

Mr. Eric Spector through his company, Idaho Entertainment, headquartered in Carlsbad, California, was awarded the lease on the race track by the Ada County Commission on July 15, 2009. Idaho law requires that prior to operating a simulcast facility, that is bringing racing signals in from out-of-state tracks to bet on locally, the operator must first have an agreement with the local horsemen’s group, in this case the IHBPA. In addition, Idaho law provides that any track which handles $5 million or more in simulcast wagering must have 46 days of live racing. This requirement was instituted in 1989 when simulcasting was approved by the legislature. The reason that it was instituted was the knowledge that simulcasting would take money away from live racing and so would have to be used to compensate the live program for those losses. Legislative Committee reports are very clear. Simulcasting was being brought into the state to enhance the live racing program, not to replace it.

Subsequently Mr. Spector and the IHBPA entered into negotiations to attempt to reach an agreement. Mr. Spector’s position from the outset was very clear. He wanted to de-emphasize the live racing program and concentrate on simulcasting which is much more profitable. He stated that he would lose up to $25,000 per day on the live program (highly disputable) and so wanted as few live race days as possible. The first thing that occurred to us is that Mr. Spector, who is an attorney, either knew or should have known that Idaho law required the operator to conduct 46 days of live racing. If he truly believed that this requirement would cause him to lose over $1 million, why would he want the lease this facility?

One of the big expenses that Mr. Spector first concocted was workman’s compensation which he said would cost him $240,000 for the racing season. Based upon that statement the IHBPA contacted an insurance agent and received a firm bid of $78,000 for the insurance. We then devised a plan whereby the horsemen would share in this cost, reducing Mr. Spector’s share to approximately $39,000. The horseman’s group reduced his expenses from $240,000 to $39,000. Mr. Spector was not impressed. When Mr. Spector demanded that horsemen change the law requiring 46 live race days, we pointed out that we had no authority to change the law and that the requirement was there to protect the live racing program. Mr. Spector was not impressed. When Mr. Spector stated that he intended to open the track for training only seven days before racing began, we pointed out that without sufficient training days, the local horses would not be properly conditioned to compete with the out-of-state horses that would be brought in. We also pointed out that without the local horses being ready to run, we would probably not have sufficient horses to fill races. Mr. Spector was not impressed. In years past, the horsemen were given 60 days of free training. We recognize that times have changed and expenses are increasing. We proposed a plan where the track would be open 45 days prior to the race meet and that the horsemen would pay half the cost of that training period. Mr. Spector was not impressed.

There are some who say that we have been too exacting in the language that we have requested be a part of our contract. To that we plead guilty. We believe that being exacting in our language is the only way to protect our horsemen and to insure that Mr. Spector does what he says he will do. You have to remember that we are not dealing with “good old Joe” down the road with whom a handshake means something. We are dealing with a California attorney who has a history of not fulfilling his promises.

When we look at Mr. Spector’s history of his involvement with horse racing, we become very nervous. Mr. Spector owns and operates the racing facility in Wyoming. When he took over that race track, he appointed a horsemen’s committee, which included his father, and then proceeded to negotiate a contract with essentially himself. After that Mr. Spector gradually and systematically reduced their number of live race days until in 2009 he was down to 8 live race days. In that year his gross profit was well in excess of $2 million. The amount that he paid into purses for that year was approximately $120,000. This is obscene. Apparently, however, this was not enough profit because for the following year (2010), Mr. Spector eliminated all live race days and still continued to operate his simulcast facilities. Unfortunately for the horsemen in Wyoming, their state law did not require any number of live race days in order to operate a simulcast facility.

As a result of these differences negotiations between the two parties have stalemated. Largely, as a result of this stalemate and the fear that racing will not return to Boise, a small number of individuals have petitioned the Idaho State Racing Commission to declare that the IHBPA is not the exclusive representative for horsemen at Les Bois. They have formed a group and have asked that their group be recognized as the new representative. On the basis of this request, the Idaho State Racing Commission has agreed to provide a hearing officer to listen to the legal arguments from both sides. This is ongoing at the present time. While we believe that the intent of this group, that of returning racing to Boise, certainly has merit, we believe that caving in to all Mr. Spector’s demands, which this group is willing to do, will in the end destroy racing. The IHBPA wants to return racing to Boise more than anyone. But we believe that if racing is to survive, we have to protect our horsemen, not only this year, but for the next ten or twenty years. To do this requires certain protections be written into our contract. And on this, we will not walk away or shirk our responsibilities.

Everything that the IHBPA has done is for the purpose of saving a live horse racing program which in turn will save our industry. To do this, we will continue to insist on a fair and equitable contract.

Our position on such a contract is easy to specify:

a. We require an equitable sharing of revenue.

b. We require a sufficient number of race days to attract quality stables and horses to our facility which will make a better and more entertaining program for our customers.

c. We require a sufficient number of training days so that our horses are conditioned and prepared to compete when the race meet opens.

d. We require that the track be maintained in a professional and safe manner so as to avoid injuries to our equine athletes.

e. We require language in the contract that will not allow the operator, at a later date, to change the terms of our agreement.

We want our horse racing fans to know that, as horsemen, we want to stay in the state and race our horses here. This is our home. But like everyone else, we also have a living to make. When we are forced to take our horses out of state, Ada County loses a valuable source of entertainment and millions of dollars that would otherwise be spent locally.

“Horsemen helping horsemen”