De Francis doesn't want fight with Charles Town

January 17, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Laurel Race Course president Joe De Francis said yesterday that he does not want to get into a simulcast war with the operators of the Charles Town Race Course in Charles Town, W.Va.

But, he said, Charles Town officials were required by federal law to gain his consent before they started simulcasting afternoon races last week from Gulfstream Park in competition with his track.

On Friday, De Francis said he was considering court action in the matter.

Yesterday, he admitted he does not know exactly what legal recourse he has under the Federal Interstate Horse Racing Act ** of 1978.

A similar battle is being waged in New England between Suffolk Downs, a thoroughbred track in East Boston, Mass., and Lincoln Greyhound Park, which is located about 50 miles away near Providence, R.I.

A federal appellate court is holding a hearing on Feb. 4 to consider Suffolk Downs' request for a restraining order to keep Lincoln, which has no live horse races, from simulcasting thoroughbred cards from Aqueduct, Gulfstream and Santa Anita.

"I'm much more interested in trying to get our bill passed in the legislature allowing us to do the same thing [simulcasting full cards and commingling pools with out-of-state tracks], than trying to stop someone else from doing it," De Francis said.

"But the situation is intolerable. We've got to offer our fans the same sort of simulcast card that Charles Town does."

Under federal law, a track that is violated due to another track simulcasting races has no power to sue the offending track, he said.

It is up to the track sending the signal to stop transmitting races if a violation occurs.

De Francis said yesterday that he has not contacted Gulfstream officials.

In the New England case, Maryland horsemen do not send their signal into Lincoln because they do not want to violate the law.

The possibility exists that Gulfstream horsemen could react similarly in the Laurel-Charles Town dispute and stop permitting Charles Town to simulcast the races.

De Francis said what makes the dispute particularly interesting is the issue of a member track of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, such as Gulfstream, sending their signal to a non-TRA track such as Charles Town.

De Francis, chairman of the legislative committee of the TRA -- XTC the national organization representing the majority of North American thoroughbred tracks -- said the group is studying such simulcasting issues.

Laurel open

Laurel, which is usually dark on Mondays, will begin its 12-race program at noon.

The feature on the Martin Luther King Jr., holiday card is the $50,000-added Native Dancer Handicap.

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