By PHILLIP BANTZ
“If we leaked it to a handful of people and said, ‘We’re filing for bankruptcy, so come and cash out your account,’ there would have been a run on the track and we wouldn’t have been able to pay off the employees,” said John M. Sullivan of Concord, the track’s lead bankruptcy attorney.
The track filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy Dec. 15, leaving in jeopardy more than 500 betting accounts that are not protected by state law, according to Sullivan.
“This was or should have been a known fact to people,” he said, adding that the track was not required to notify bettors of the risk associated with their accounts.
“There was no obligation under state law to hold their hands and tell them what to be worried about.”
Account holders should prepare to receive a fraction of what they’re owed, if they see any reimbursement at all.
“It’s not realistic to expect to receive full reimbursement,” Sullivan said. “The range is probably between 10 to 25 cents on the dollar.”
And it will be at least a year before the bankruptcy is resolved in court.
Among the account holders are bettors such as Herschel Bird of Nevada, who stands to lose $138,150; Byrne J. Kinney, also from the Silver State, who is owed $48,167; and David Cuscuna of Florida, who had nearly $24,000 tied up at the track, according to bankruptcy filings.
There are also dozens of account holders who are owed a few thousand to a few hundred dollars. Some accounts held only a couple dollars or even change.
The track recently lost one of its first arguments in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manchester to be excluded from paying 288 bettors with $10 or less in their accounts.
The price of postage for notifying some of these account holders of the bankruptcy exceeds what they’re owed, Sullivan said.
“Our concern is that if somebody is owed 30 cents, they’re going to be confused when they receive a piece of mail about it,” he said. “The judge just didn’t feel that there was any exception in the law for a 5 cents claim or a $5,000 claim.”
Richard Mackey, a resident of Westminster, Mass., had $606 in his track account, and said he never expected to be at risk of losing it. Mackey said a friend broke the news to him about the track’s closure.
“It’s not about the money, it’s the principle of the thing. To me, that money was, in its own way, in a bank account that couldn’t be touched by anybody but me,” he said.
“My money should never have been commingled with the track’s other expenses. I don’t owe their employees a damn penny. That money should not be coming out of my pocket.”
Horse racing author Andrew R. Beyer of Washington D.C. told the Thoroughbred Times that he had “already written off” the $20,440 he had in an account at the track. He said he believed his money was safe with a licensed operator, rather than competing offshore bookmakers.
The N.H. Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission in Concord regulates the state’s thoroughbred and greyhound racing operations, but can do nothing to protect bettors’ accounts, according to Sullivan.
Sudhir Naik, the commission’s deputy director, declined comment on the Hinsdale track situation. Naik referred all questions to Director Paul M. Kelley, who was out of the office this week.
Business at the track had been suffering as the economy worsened, but skyrocketing fuel prices caused gamblers to further tighten their budgets and put one of the final nails in its coffin, track president and chief executive Joseph E. Sullivan 3rd said in a prepared statement. He is not related to the bankruptcy attorney.
“People simply have less money to wager in New Hampshire and nationally,” he said.
The track pulled in $5.9 million in revenue through mid-December, a decline of $2.6 million compared to the same period last year, according to the gaming commission.
So far this year, the state’s other tracks — The Lodge at Belmont, Rockingham Park and Seabrook Greyhound — have each posted more than $1 million drops in revenue.