Jockeys’ Guild: Setting a few things straight
On Friday, one day after the Jockeys’ Guild released its David Letterman-like Top 10 list of what it said were the “worst deadbeat” tracks on safety and welfare issues for riders, I suggested Terry Meyocks, the organization’s national manager, was not doing a very good job of “winning friends and influencing people.” Two of the racetrack companies who found their tracks on the Top 10 list weren’t very happy with Meyocks, either.
Meyocks feels the comments from Penn National Gaming’s Chris McErlean and Monmouth Park’s Dennis Drazin deserve a response, and has offered up the following rebuttal. – Ray Paulick
By Terry Meyocks
I agree there was a time in the pre-racino era when, for the most part, the Thoroughbred Racing Associations and the Jockeys’ Guild did work together in a respectful and collaborative fashion. Since my involvement with the Guild, we have attempted to continue to work with the industry to further the sport and improve the jockeys’ image.
In response to what was stated by Chris McErlean, I am not certain if the $1.2 million per year he referred to for the on-track accident policies was for both Penn National Gaming’s harness and Thoroughbred tracks or just the company’s Thoroughbred tracks. These benefit the tracks as well as the riders. Without such policies, the tracks would have difficulty attracting jockeys to ride there. In the event of injuries, there would be no alternative for compensation for the jockeys other than litigation. These insurance policies are limited to $1 million in medical coverage, which is no longer adequate in light of medical costs, and only provide a temporary disability benefit of $200 per week for up to 104 weeks, which has not been raised in almost 15 years.
It should be noted that PNGI is not the only track paying for on-track accident policies. All other tracks, with the exception of tracks in workers’ compensation states, provide on-track accident coverage in the amount of $500,000 or $1 million dollars. I would have to assume the reason PNGI is paying a higher amount is the number of tracks the company operates and the number of claims filed at PNGI racetracks as a result of injuries.
With regards to the annual contribution of $30,000 to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund from the five tracks PNGI owns, as a PDJF board member I would say that is appreciated. However, it needs to be understood the PDJF is a separate organization with separate qualification standards and benefits. The Jockeys’ Guild is a 501 (c)(5) membership organization providing benefits to all of its active, retired and qualifying permanently disabled members.
The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) is a 501(c)(3) public charity and industry-based fund, independent of the Guild, which provides financial assistance to jockeys, both Guild members and non-Guild members, who have suffered catastrophic on-track injuries. The eligibility process and review of the permanently disabled for each of the two programs are separate and independent of each other. However, the members of the Guild are very active in fundraising and supportive of the efforts of the PDJF.
The PDJF provides a monthly stipend and reimbursements for Medicare B & D, whereas the Guild provides its qualifying permanently disabled members with the following: a $15,000 life insurance policy (which was increased from $10,000 as of July, 2011); 50% reimbursement of prescription co-pays; 50% reimbursement of medical co-pays with Medicare Explanation of Benefit; 100% reimbursement of balance approved by but not paid by Medicare on durable medical equipment (there is a $1,500 annual cap reimbursement on Medical and Durable Medical Benefits); and a waiver of annual Jockeys’ Guild dues.
The Guild also provides its temporarily disabled members, as well as those that are eventually deemed permanently disabled, with a stipend of at least $200 a week, for up to two years from the date of the on-track injury.
Tracks cannot continue to say jockeys are “just another independent contractor.” You cannot have racing without the jockeys and you cannot have casinos in many states without racing.
In Pennsylvania, as well as a few other states, there is legislation where the riders are provided health insurance coverage. As such, Penn National is required to contribute $250,000 annually to a health insurance fund for the qualifying riders. Unfortunately, their other racetracks are not required to do the same. Chris McErlean’s statements just solidify that there is a need for this on a larger scale. However, the racetracks have to be a part of a long-term solution to ensure that the riders are taken care of adequately.
As we have stated before, all of the other major racetracks, as well as many of the smaller tracks that are struggling, continue to contribute to assist the jockeys, including those that ride at their tracks. It is unfair that the tracks that do contribute are paying for the benefits of the riders at the tracks that do not contribute. The tracks that are not contributing are gaining additional funds by using the signal of the tracks that do contribute and using the images of the jockeys riding at those tracks.
Since I have become involved with the Guild, there has never been an attempt to “shake down” any racetrack for contributions, let alone at Monmouth Park. Up until last year, when the horsemen took over the racetrack, Monmouth has made annual contributions to the Guild for decades. New Jersey is one of a few states, including New York, California and Maryland, where it is legislatively required for jockeys to be covered under workers’ compensation.
Dennis Drazin alleged that in exchange for the media rights, Monmouth Park is providing $150,000 per year for a health insurance program for the riders. That is not true. It too was done legislatively. Additionally, they continued to make their track contributions since the establishment of the New Jersey Jockey Health and Welfare Trust. The Guild has never sought or received any monies from the Trust. In fact we have incurred substantial costs in achieving this benefit and assisting in the administration of the Trust.
I did advise the Guild Board members and the membership attending the Assembly this past week that Monmouth Park wanted to make contributions only for the New Jersey riders. In response to Dennis Drazin, we stated that the Guild is also responsible for making sure jockeys like Jacky Martin and Michael Straight are taken care of, not to mention Eibar Coa and Jose Velez, who were both well-known Monmouth Park jockey that suffered career-ending injuries. We also provide benefits for the families of jockeys who are killed during racing accidents such as Mark Villa, who left a young wife and two small children behind, and Jorge Herrera.
Dennis Drazin stated that I refused to pass on other contributions to New Jersey riders, insisting that at least half be kept for the Guild. What he did not explain was that all of the funds were to be used for the benefit of jockeys throughout the country. We had proposed that at least 50% of said contributions were expended to provide life insurance, AD&D insurance, temporary disability benefits, or to subsidize or in some other way provide health care or insurance reimbursement or be accounted for as to be distributed to jockeys who regularly ride at Monmouth Park upon submission of proof of the jockey’s insurance or health related expenses. The remaining 50% would be used directly for jockey benefits, including those 58 permanently disabled members that receive benefits from us, separate from what they receive from the PDJF.
The statements made by McErlean and Drazin on the Paulick Report further demonstrate our need for a solution to the issues at hand pertaining to the jockeys’ health and welfare. To imply that I, or the Guild, have not repeatedly tried to work with the industry and these non-contributing tracks is completely incorrect. Unfortunately, the method of trying to get along with these tracks was not working and thus an alternative method was necessary. In closing, I want to reiterate it is not fair the racetracks that are contributing to the Guild are taking care of the riders at those tracks that are not contributing.