07/16/2010 12:00AM

Account wagering curtailed in Illinois


Bettors in Illinois have been unable to place wagers through account-wagering companies on a handful of popular racetracks since July 12 because of consequences from a new law that went into effect on that date.

The law caps the amount that tracks can charge account-wagering companies for their signal at 5 percent of handle, well below the market rate of approximately 8 percent for most premium racing signals. As a result, many racetracks have declined to make their signals available in Illinois through the state's licensed account-wagering companies, according to Brad Blackwell, a vice president at Twinspires.com, the account-wagering operation owned by Churchill Downs Inc.

"The cap essentially prevents the [account-wagering companies] from paying market rates," Blackwell said. "We've had to go to the tracks to explain the cap issue and ask them if they are willing to renegotiate their contracts to get below the cap, but most are unwilling to make that exception."

Through a merger that was finalized earlier this year, Churchill Downs also owns Youbet.com, making it the largest account-wagering company in the United States. At both Twinspires.com and Youbet.com, the list of tracks unavailable to Illinois bettors on Friday included Calder, Del Mar, Hollywood, Hoosier, Laurel, and Lone Star, among several other tracks. Betting menus are also curtailed for Illinois customers of TVG and XpressBet because of the same issue.

The Illinois Racing Board approved the cap in January as a way to protect the amount of revenue from account wagering that flows to Illinois horsemen and racetracks. Although many racetracks and horsemen objected to the cap, the rule went into effect after a 45-day comment period in which many racing industry officials said they would support the cap only if it were raised above the current market rate for premium signals.