The California Horse Racing Board conducted its regular meeting Thursday, January 26, at Santa Anita Park. Chairman Chuck Winner presided. Commissioners Madeline Auerbach, Jesse Choper, George Krikorian, Araceli Ruano, and Alex Solis also were in attendance.
A report was released by the CHRB which indicated that handle across California racetracks had increased 2 percent in 2016, according to drf.com. The total handle on the year was $3.04 billion. While daytime Thoroughbred handle fell 2 percent on track, the off-track increase of 7.4 percent caused an overall increase of 2.28 percent. The month of December posted the strongest gains, with total handle increasing by 18.5 percent in that period.
The audio of this entire Board meeting is available on the CHRB Website (www.chrb.ca.gov) under the Webcast link. In brief:
- Chairman Winner opened the meeting by first announcing that Commissioner Steve Beneto had resigned from his position on the Board in order to devote more time to his own business interests. The Chairman described him as “a terrific member of the Board, who will be missed by the Board and by racing in general.”
- Chairman Winner next introduced newly appointed Commissioner Araceli Ruano. He said her “background, her resume, is really special…and I think the other Board members, the staff, and everyone involved in racing will be delighted that Commissioner Ruano is now on our Board.”
- Executive Director Rick Baedeker announced there had been an error in the distribution and posting of the notice for this meeting, and as a result the meeting notice was received by some and posted on the CHRB website just nine days beforehand – one day short of the 10-day notice required by the Bagley-Keene Act. To remain in compliance with the open meeting law, only those agenda items requiring immediate action could be acted upon at this meeting, and those would require an affirmative two-thirds vote, or five commissioners, rather than the usual majority vote of four commissioners on a seven-member panel. Accordingly, only those agenda items dealing with Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) licenses (which were set to expire), charity distribution (so as not to create a hardship for the intended beneficiaries), and the election of the two Vice Chair officers (to ensure the orderly conduct of CHRB business) could be acted upon at the meeting. The other agenda items requiring Board approval were put over until the February meeting. Other agenda items involving discussion only (no official Board action) could still be discussed.
- The six commissioners unanimously named George Krikorian to the position of First Vice Chair and elected Madeline Auerbach Second Vice Chair. The position of Vice Chair became vacant when the term of former Commissioner Richard Rosenberg expired and he completed his Board service.
- The Board gave six-month license extensions to the six ADW companies approved to provide account wagering in California under the following conditions: The ADW provider shall submit an annual profit-and-loss statement for its California operation and any additional information the Board may deem appropriate within 90 days of the conclusion of its business cycle. Such financial statements along with any related documents shall remain confidential and shall be subject to audit by the Board as recommended by CHRB staff. Any and all reasonable costs associated with this requirement shall be borne by the ADW provider.
- Edward Comins, president of WatchandWager.com LLC, indicated that Monarch Content Management, which negotiates simulcast and ADW agreements for the Stronach Group and many other North American tracks, has not signed an agreement with WatchandWager.com, which is preventing that ADW from accepting wagers for many tracks. Vice Chairs Auerbach and Krikorian asked CHRB Counsel Phillip Laird to look into the matter.
- The Board authorized the Los Angeles Turf Club to distribute $30,682 in race day charity proceeds to 10 beneficiaries.
- Vice Chairs Krikorian and Auerbach both expressed dissatisfaction with the decision by the California Marketing Committee's decision to modify the live streaming of California races on the Calracing.com Website by charging users for this service. CMC also restricted free replays of California racing on this site until the day after the race. Greg Avioli, president and CEO of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, said the CMC made these changes for financial reasons and in an effort to prevent the race signals from being pirated. He said that given the CHRB concerns, they would reevaluate that decision.
- A representative of Plusmic Corporation USA gave a presentation on the photo-finish process designed to explain how the system works, with an emphasis on determining the placings of horses as they cross the finish line.
- Executive Director Baedeker announced that Bill Westermann, Chief of Enforcement and Licensing, is retiring after 17 years of service in various investigative capacities with the Board and after many decades of public service in California. He described Westermann as “one of the most honest, hardworking persons I've ever had the pleasure to work with.”
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