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Montana racing still unsettled

December 5, 2010     E-mail this page to a friend!

By Robert Cooke, Jr., Managing Editor, TRJ—The Racing Journal

After a nearly four-hour public meeting of the Montana Board of Horse Racing on Friday, December 3, many questions remain.

Discussion of agenda item III A, "Montana OTB Simulcast License Hearing," occupied the bulk of the meeting. Counsel for Montana Entertainment (ME) produced a "settlement document," which attempts to settle its $33,000 debt to the Board through a combination of a $20,000 cash payment plus the simulcasting equipment and services needed to avoid an interruption of OTB operations.

The settlement offer is, by all accounts, an effort to skirt the possible revocation of ME's current simulcasting and racing licenses in the state of Montana. The Board already voted, in its October 16 meeting, that it would not entertain an application to renew ME's licenses for 2011.

Many Board members voiced their opinions that the settlement offer was not good enough, wondering out loud about money that ME owes to counties, fair boards, and/or horsemen from race meets held in Great Falls and Missoula under the ME banner.

Another sticking point was simulcasting itself, which the Board wants to continue uninterrupted. That might be impossible. MBoHR Director Ryan Sherman verified his phone conversation with representatives of United Tote, saying, "United Tote stated that they will not do business with the Montana Board of Horse Racing unless the Board moves to revoke the license."

The revocation hearing began at one point during the meeting, with Sherman being sworn in by the Board's counsel. But the hearing action stopped, inexplicably.

Asked to sum up his feelings about the license revocation as it relates to the future of simulcasting, Sherman stated, "We're damned if we do, and we're damned if we don't."

The Board eventually voted to amend the settlement offer to ask ME to detail its assets, liabilities, and receivables and to require ME to contact its creditors to tell them how ME plans to pay them the money it owes them. Under the amendment, has until December 8 to comply with the new requirement.

Note: Minutes of the meeting are not yet available, and TRJ—The Racing Journal will verify this story from the minutes and publish corrections if needed. Montana horsemen are urged to contact their Board representatives for more information or to give their input.