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On the Run

Democrat Photo by Nathan Mayberg

SEVERAL DRIVERS GUIDE their horses around the track on Wednesday afternoon’s race card at Monticello Raceway.

Harnessmen Gear Up
For Raceway Battle

By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO — June 4, 2004 – The Monticello Harness Horsemen’s Association wants to start contract negotiations with Monticello Raceway officials in the near future.
And the association members want 7.5 percent of the takeout from the Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) to go to the race purses, said Monticello Harness Horsemen’s Association President Al DeSimone.
However, he charged the Raceway with declining to begin negotiations until the association lowers the takeout and drops three lawsuits it currently has against the track’s management.
The association’s lawsuits, which seek a total of $2 million in damages, include charges against Monticello Raceway for deducting winnings meant to go to the horsemen, and using it for the general fund.
Cliff Ehrlich, who is the President of Mighty M Gaming, said that New York State law allows the parties to discuss lowering the takeout.
If no agreement is reached though, that percentage remains at 7.5 percent, DeSimone said.
Ehrlich said his company was looking for a deal similar to Saratoga Raceway, which gives approximately 6.5 percent of its takeout to the purses there.
Ehrlich added that he would like to see the horsemen help out, since the raceway has recently spent more than $24 million for the installation of the VLTs and other improvements.
But, if the horsemen’s association did not want to assist with those costs, Ehrlich said, “we don’t consider the percentages to be a major issue.”
Ehrlich predicted good times for the horsemen after Mighty M Gaming at Monticello Raceway officially opens on June 30.
“Their purses will triple,” he said.
DeSimone agreed, but stressed that the VLTs and the contract are “two separate issues.” He said his group could not lower any percentage or agree to any demands, especially when they don’t even know what the contract will be.
The contract covers a wide-range of issues, he said, including insurance, barn space, and overall work conditions. DeSimone called on the raceway to begin negotiations soon.
The previous three-year contract between the horsemen’s association and raceway management ended on May 31.

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