06/03/2012 6:47PM

Betfair TVG officials miffed at TOC stance on exchange betting


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The decision by the board of directors of the Thoroughbred Owners of California last week to table a vote on implementing exchange betting for at least a year was met with dismay and anger by officials with Betfair TVG, who said over the weekend they will continue to pursue implementation of the new form of wagering.

Stephen Burn, the chief executive officer of Betfair TVG, said he was given only a brief warning last Friday that the TOC would not support starting exchange betting for the upcoming Del Mar meeting, which runs from July 18 to Sept. 5.

Betfair TVG and Del Mar had hoped to launch exchange betting this summer, pending approval from the TOC, the state’s official representative of horsemen in the state, and a completion of the rulemaking procedures by the California Horse Racing Board.

“It was a surprise to find out (the decision) on Friday after months of close negotiations with the most senior members of the TOC,” Burn said in a phone interview on Sunday. “We thought we were working well.

“At some point, I hope for a fuller explanation to better understand.

“We’ve been talking for some time and in good faith. We think there will be exchange wagering at some time.”

The TOC board opted not to take a vote on whether to implement exchange betting, which allows customers to post odds and accept wagers on whether a horse will win or lose a race. Exchange betting has grown in popularity in England in the last decade; Betfair has the largest exchange betting website in that country.

Betfair TVG officials said they may pursue exchange betting with other breeds.

Burn said no conversations have been held with Los Alamitos officials on exchange betting on Quarter Horse racing, but, “I wouldn’t rule it out.”

“We would like to work with other states or breeds that will work with us,” he said.

In a statement released late Friday, the TOC said it will not take up the issue of exchange betting for a year. There has been widespread concern from trainers that they could be scrutinized for alleged wrongdoing through exchange betting, particularly when a horse is bet to lose.

Burn on Sunday reiterated a position that Betfair TVG made in a statement released over the weekend, saying that California racing will miss out on revenue from exchange betting. In its statement, Betfair TVG called the TOC decision, “A bleak day for California racing.”

Friday, the TOC stated its support for a reciprocal agreement between the Frank Stronach-owned HRTV and TVG for the two television networks to share the exclusive signals they each control. In California, HRTV has exclusive rights to races from Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita, both Stronach-owned tracks, while TVG has exclusive rights to Del Mar and Hollywood Park.

Burn said that previous discussions between Betfair TVG and HRTV about reciprocal agreements were unsuccessful. He said that the absence of HRTV on many cable and satellite providers makes such an arrangement difficult.

“I have never heard from (racing fans) that they can’t see Hollywood Park or Del Mar,” he said. “We can talk about parity when HRTV has the same distribution as TVG.

“We are spending millions of dollars to ensure that our pictures are more widely distributed.”

At an open forum for members at Hollywood Park on Sunday, TOC chairman Mike Pegram said he wanted reciprocal telecasting agreements to be part of future licensing agreements for racetracks.

“Hopefully, we’ll get this stalemate eliminated,” he said.

Burn did not attend the forum and declined to comment on Pegram’s statement.