Talks under way to keep Ellis Park open

By Jackie Hays - bio | email

LOUISVILLE (WAVE) - Ellis Park was supposed to be open for racing Friday, but owner Ron Geary announced earlier in the week he was closing the track amid a bitter dispute over account wagering. Now there's hope that a last-minute deal might save the track and its summer meet. WAVE 3's Jackie Hays reports.

Sheri Norris and her nine horses are staying put after she heard there's a chance her horses might round the track at Ellis Park as early as July 9.

"I think there's a little bit of hope that Ellis Park might potentially have a chance at staying open," Norris said.

Norris and her husband have raced at Ellis for 10 years. Both are members of the HBPA (Horsemen's Benevolent and Protection Association).

Account wagering was blocked by the KHPBA, which is seeking a larger share of those revenues.

Geary said he made a proposal to KHBPA, which shut down account wagering, that would allow the betting dollars to flow again and start racing by Wednesday.

Geary met with KHBPA members behind closed doors just hours after he laid off his staff and announced the park would not reopen.

"We were shocked," Norris said.

Geary now says he has agreed to open and operate the horse track under the current contract if the association agrees to its terms. The contract calls for a 50-50 split of account wagering - that's money received from online and phone betting services, known as ADWs.

But HBPA Executive Director Marty Maline says it's not a done deal.

"It's a big if," Maline said. "Our whole feeling is this new creature, this ADW company, they need to share a larger amount of their revenue with horsemen for purses."

Norris says "they want Ron Geary to have 50-50 but they want him to have 6 percent and HPBA to have 6 percent - a total of 12 from the ADWs. Currently there is 5 percent offered on the contracts."

Maline says that's only fair. "The horsemen have a tremendous expense in this industry. They buy the horses, they have to care for them and 2 to 3 years later, they have to start all over again."

Maline is in the process of contacting the 10 HBPA board members. If 6 out of 10 agree to go ahead with the current contract, the track could re-open. But board members say the final decision might be up to the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Group.