The Pacific Racing Association, which operates Golden Gate Fields in Albany, Calif., for The Stronach Group, has filed a lawsuit against the California Horse Racing Board in an effort to negate a law the CHRB says requires racetracks to contract with OTB facilities for simulcasting.
At its last meeting, the CHRB approved Pacific Racing's license to operate an upcoming Aug. 22-Oct. 2 meeting contingent on contracts being in place with satellite facilities that are part of NOTWINC – Northern California Off-Track Wagering, Inc. NOTWINC was formed to administer simulcasting at multiple locations in the northern part of California and its members included the California Association of Racing Fairs, Thoroughbred Owners of California and privately owned racetracks like Golden Gate Fields.
“We are seeking a court ruling invalidating that condition and give us the license without the requirement,” said Scott Daruty, a Stronach Group executive who serves as senior vice president or the Pacific Racing Association.
“We think the OTB network in Northern California is outdated, inefficient and ineffective. We have ideas how it can be better structured, but the CHRB has mandated that we have to do everything the old way. The purpose of the lawsuit is to get a court to interpret how the law works.”
Daruty said a key passage of the law says an OTB network “may” be operated by an organization like NOTWINC. While the Stronach Group sees the word “may” to mean contracting with NOTWINC as optional, the CHRB's legal counsel interprets the word to mean it is a requirement.
The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.
“We're looking for a prelimary injunction, so it will be on an expedited basis,” said Daruty. The CHRB holds its next meeting July 12.
“We've been in constant communication with CHRB and have told them we don't have hard feelings,” said Daruty. “Wehave been also communicating with the OTB network. The irony is if we don't get our license, there is a chance those dates could be moved to the fairs.”
OTB facilities are operated by county fairs.
If the court rules in favor of Pacific Racing Association, Daruty said, “We would restructure the way brick and mortar OTBs operate, the way we believe they should be operated. Part of it is operational, which in some respects is related to (organized) labor. The statute deals very specifically with how the money gets allocated, even though if you started with a clean slate today you wouldn't allocate it that way. The economics are pretty well set in the statute. We think it is critical to get a court to interpret the law so we understand the options. If the law is interpreted properly, it would give us the flexibility we need.”
CLARIFICATION: An early version of this article said the CHRB required the Pacific Racing Association to contract with NOTWINC for simulcasting purposes in Northern California. The requirement, according to a CHRB spokesman, is to contract with the existing OTB facilities, Those facilities are members of NOTWINC, which administers simulcasting.
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