11/20/2008 12:00AM

Account wagering resumes in Texas on some platforms


Texas racetracks and the state horsemen's group have reached an agreement that will end an eight-month blackout of state racetrack signals on two major account-wagering platforms, officials for both sides said on Tuesday.

The agreement was reached between TrackNet and the Texas Horsemen's Partnership and will run through Dec. 31, 2010, according to officials. TrackNet is a partnership between Churchill Downs Inc. and Magna Entertainment Corp. Magna is the operator of Lone Star Park, the state's largest racetrack, and both Magna and Churchill operate separate account-wagering systems, XpressBet and Twinspires.com.

In addition, Youbet.com reached a separate agreement with Retama Park that will allow it to offer wagering on that track's races. However, Youbet.com has been unable to reach an agreement with Lone Star Park.

The state horsemen's group withdrew its approval for Lone Star and other tracks to send the signal to account-wagering sites in April, citing concerns over the amount of money returned to purses from wagers made through them.

The end of the blackout will immediately benefit Retama Park, which opens on Thursday night for a 43-day meet. Retama agreed to hold the meet after Sam Houston Race Park had to cancel its fall and winter meet this year because of damage from Hurricane Ike.

Under the account-wagering agreement, the races from all state tracks will be available on Magna's XpressBet platform and Churchill's Twinspires, according to Drew Shubeck, the general manager of Lone Star. The rights to the live television broadcast will be held by HorseRacing TV, a television network that is also jointly owned by Magna and Churchill, Shubeck said.

Left out, so far, is the largest account-wagering operator in the U.S. - Television Games Network. Aside from an experiment earlier this year in California, TrackNet and TVG have not been able to reach any agreements to share the rights to signals that either company controls by contract or ownership.

Nationally, a number of horsemen's groups have withdrawn their consent for tracks to send their signals to account-wagering sites, citing concerns over purse revenues. In addition to Texas, the groups include those in Kentucky and Florida.

Tommy Azopardi, the executive director of the Texas Horsemen's Partnership, said the current agreement will generate increased revenues for purses, but he declined to provide details. Shubeck also declined to discuss details of the agreement.

The Texas Horsemen's Partnership is one of 20 local horsemen's groups who have at least nominally assigned their negotiating rights on account-wagering agreements to a company formed late last year, the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Group. That group has been attempting to forge an agreement with TrackNet and other account-wagering companies that would set a national standard for the splits of account-wagering revenues.

Bob Reeves, the president of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Group, said he was not involved in the negotiations in Texas.

- additional reporting by Mary Rampellini

Correction: A previous version of this article omitted one of the national betting companies that has reached agreement to carry the signal from Retama Park. Youbet.com - not XpressBet and Twinspires.com alone - will carry the Retama signal.