NEW OWNERSHIP GROUP FOR DELAWARE PARK APPEARS BEFORE COMMISSION
By: Tom LaMarra
Officials with the two entities that are in the process of purchasing Casino at Delaware Park for an undisclosed price told state regulators Nov. 17 they intend to maintain the tradition of live racing and perhaps make some improvements.
Representatives of Clairvest Group and Rubico Gaming were on hand at the monthly meeting of the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission to introduce themselves and field questions. There was no formal presentation as was indicated on the agenda for the meeting.
Ron Baumann, who was general manager at Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack for seven years and after that held the same position at Indiana Grand Casino & Racetrack, said he will oversee Delaware Park operations for the new group.
“I don’t have any changes planned as I sit here today,” Baumann told racing commission members. “I’d like to continue the success of Delaware Park and make things better. I’m passionate about racing and I love it, and open to (making improvements).”
DTRC member Ed Stegemeier said he would like the new owners to submit an operations plan to be submitted before live racing dates are approved each year. “I think we are entitled to know about what you are doing and why you are doing it,” he said.
The DTRC approved a request from Delaware Park for 88 racing dates in 2022, which marks an increase from recent years.
Bessie Gruwell, Executive Director of the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, noted that horsemen are in negotiations on a contract that expires Dec. 31. The contracts traditionally go three years.
“We need to meet and come to a decision,” Gruwell said. “We certainly have a lot of questions, but we look forward to working with (the new owners) and making racing more successful.”
The new group has a target date of Dec. 1 to take over operations at Delaware Park. Vernon Kirk, Director of the Delaware Lottery, which oversees casino-style gambling in the state, said the entities and personnel met the standards for suitability under an examination by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement and that a formal recommendation will be issued in the near future.
In other business, Gruwell said the Delaware Certified Thoroughbred Program had received 242 registration applications this year and anticipates another 100-125, which would make for a sizable increase from the previous year.
For the Delaware Park meet that ended Oct. 30, Gruwell said there were 318 individual Delaware Certified horses that competed and 947 total starts with 116 wins, 154 seconds and 127 thirds. The program, which in 2021 added four Delaware Certified-restricted stakes, paid $1.46 million in purses and bonuses during the meet.
The DCTP expects to have about $1.5 million on hand for the 2022 meet. Gruwell noted legislation approved by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. John Carney this year makes an additional $500,000 available for the program each year.
“We were very fortunate to get that bill passed this year,” she said.