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US Owner Closes Ellis Park Over ADW Dispute
The Kentucky circuit "faces a large summer gap" after Ellis Park owner Ron Geary announced he is closing the 86-year-old track (where a 44-day meet was scheduled to begin today) "citing a disagreement with horsemen regarding the distribution of account wagering revenue", reported thoroughbredtimes.com. Geary declared: "It is shocking to think that the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association would choose to close down Ellis Park rather than take advantage of the additional revenue already negotiated with the ADWs for 2008. They know it and they don't care. All the KHBPA is focused on is hurting the ADWs this year, so they can negotiate a higher percentage next year. What they are doing is a scorched earth strategy with huge collateral damage to the Tri-State." With their negotiator, the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Group, horsemen in Kentucky & several other states "have pursued an increased share of ADW revenue. Similar to deals being sought in other states, Kentucky horsemen want 7% of account wagering revenue." Geary & the horsemen failed to reach an agreement on the ADW percentage. Previously Ellis Park had negotiated broadcast deals with both of the country's horse racing channels, Television Games Network & HorseRacing Television. Despite those agreements, Geary said Kentucky horsemen "informed Ellis Park they would block the track's signals to account wagering outlets". On Tuesday, Geary filed for a restraining order with the federal court in Kentucky "to prevent the horsemen from blocking the racing signal". But on Wednesday, the judge ruled against issuing a restraining order, "clearing the way for the horsemen to block Ellis from participating with ADWs". Ellis had reached deals with ADWs that would have tripled Ellis's ADW revenue compared to last year. Geary summed up: "They cut off their own nose to spite their face. Ellis Park was at a critical point. Since I purchased the track, I have invested millions & lost millions getting her back to her old glory. We were set to open this Friday, the Fourth of July, and it was going to be a spectacular year. I love this track & I love horse racing. I am not, however, in the business to continue to spend millions of dollars per year keeping her going just to have the Kentucky HBPA pull the rug out from underneath us. It is a tragedy."