Union OKs pact to keep satellite wagering facilities open
Members of the pari-mutuel betting labor union approved a modified agreement with the California horseracing industry on Monday that will effectively keep the state’s satellite wagering facilities open indefinitely.
SEIU Parimutuel Employees Guild Local 280 President Richard Castro said Wednesday, “There were some racing associations that felt that there was just no way Local 280 membership was going to pass this and we were going to be used as a scapegoat. People were making accelerated plans that things were going to close July 1.”
At issue was a clause in the collective bargaining agreement that guaranteed SEIU Local 280 the same amount of workers and hours regardless of need or finances available. With the skyrocketing popularity of Internet and phone wagering combined with dwindling attendance across the state’s brick and mortar facilities, there was a chance the networks that provide the live video could have ceased operation at the end of June. At that point, an agreement from the Thoroughbred Owners of California to subsidize the simulcasts would have expired.
“Frankly I was never worried about it to be honest with you,” said Fairgrounds Chief Executive Officer Tim Fennell. “There’s too much at stake and unfortunately the horseracing attendance is heading in the wrong direction. Frankly until some of our state legislators really focus on it it’s going to continue to go the wrong way.”
The networks, funded by a small portion of overall handle, are currently operating at a $24,000 daily deficit, 70 percent of which was spent on this contractually obligated labor. The new agreement, passed 363-134, cuts required staffing hours by 22.5 percent, but also calls for a new utility clerk position and some reduced requirements to qualify for benefits.
Attendance at Del Mar’s surfside race place is down to roughly 600 people per day. Fennell said at its peak more than 3,000 would bet at the facility daily. Handle was down to $51 million last year, $21 million less than in 1999.
Since 2001, statewide on-site handle has decreased by nearly $1 billion while phone and Internet betting have increased by more than $300 million.
Fairgrounds officials say they take 2 percent of the handle at Surfside Race Place, which must be divided among other entities.
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