Indiana Racing Commission To Consider Sale Of Tracks To Eldorado Amid Staff Concerns

The Indiana Horse Racing Commission will meet next week to consider a petition from Eldorado Resorts to purchase permits and licenses to hold racing in the state from Caesars Entertainment. Based on a redacted report released to the public this week, commission staff have expressed concern about whether the purchase would be good for racing in Indiana.

Eldorado currently owns Pompano Park in Pompano Beach, Fla., and Scioto Downs in Columbus, Ohio. It also once owned Presque Isle Downs before selling the Erie, Penn., track to Churchill Downs, Inc. and Mountaineer Park in New Cumberland, W.V., which it sold to Century Casinos last year.

While the report from executive director Deena Pitman made note of big promises made by Eldorado to the commission and horsemen about its willingness to contribute to the longterm health of racing, it also raised concerns about the company. For one thing, the report noted a decline in stock shares of Eldorado from their 52-week average and questioned whether Eldorado would continue to invest in its racing properties, particularly if new financial challenges arose as a result of COVID-19 or other factors.

More importantly though, Pitman expressed serious concern about feedback from horsemen at Pompano, Scioto and Mountaineer. Reports prepared by a third party demonstrated a poor relationship between horsemen and track management and alleged unwillingness by Eldorado to repair facilities like grandstand and seating areas and barns. At Mountaineer, the report also noted, track employees were paid far less than average before it was sold, causing staff shortages and making retention difficult. At various times, the track had been short of several assistant starters and had gone months without a track superintendent at the time of a report authored by consultant Doug Reed in February 2020, around the time the sale of the property to Century was due to close.

“Unfortunately, based on all of the information before the Commission Staff, it is not clear that ERI offers the capable leadership needed for the future of Indiana racing. This is not a conclusion that the Commission Staff reaches lightly. As stated above, the Commission Staff was impressed with the commitments that ERI offered in the March Letter. These commitments, for the first time, made Commission Staff believe that ERI was giving serious thought and consideration to its ownership of the two racing permits and its place as a steward of both racing and the Anderson and Shelbyville communities.

“On the other hand, Commission Staff cannot ignore the information in Reed’s Second Report. It is difficult to reconcile the ‘two sides’ of ERI as an organization — one that is promising great things and making commitments to the Indiana horsemen and IHRC to be the permit holder that the Indiana industry needs. The other, an entity that is and has been clearly disinterested in horse racing since entering the industry in 2014 and seems strongly averse to spending any additional money to improve horse racing at its currently-owned properties.”

Pitman outlined a 22-item list of requirements she advised the commission require of Eldorado before approving the sale, including a racing escrow fund of $25 million to be spent over a ten-year period, application and accreditation by the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance for Indiana Grand, and more.

The commission will meet in closed executive session on Monday morning to discuss the issue, and followed by a public meeting.

Pitman’s report is available here.

The post Indiana Racing Commission To Consider Sale Of Tracks To Eldorado Amid Staff Concerns appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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