03/10/2010 1:00AM

Burn replaces Cunningham as head of TVG


Gerard Cunningham, the president of Television Games Network, has been replaced by Stephen Burn, TVG's director of horse racing, according to racing officials who conduct business with the horse race broadcasting and account-wagering company.

It is the first major change at TVG since the company was bought by Betfair, the British bet-matching company, early in 2009. Cunningham was installed as TVG's president after the acquisition closed.

TVG officials did not respond to requests for comment.

According to racing officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because TVG has not announced the staff change, Cunningham's relationship with racetracks had become increasingly strained over the past several months, a factor that contributed significantly to Betfair's decision to replace him.

Since taking over TVG, Cunningham had simultaneously attempted to maintain TVG's exclusive control over several high-profile racing signals while also attempting to persuade U.S. racetracks to support the launch of a U.S. betting exchange similar to the one Betfair operates in the United Kingdom and other foreign countries.

Support for betting exchanges is a sensitive topic in the U.S. because the business model underlying the exchange provides a significantly smaller percentage of betting revenue to racetracks and horsemen than the traditional parimutuel model. The topic is also sensitive because some U.S. racetracks have begun to explore whether the U.S. racing industry should launch and operate its own betting exchange.

Betting exchanges, which were pioneered by Betfair, are currently illegal in the U.S. The services allow their customers to offer wagers on races and other sporting events to other customers.

TVG is currently the largest account-wagering company in the U.S. by handle, but it will be supplanted later this year if a merger between Churchill Downs Inc. and Youbet.com is approved. Churchill operates the third-largest national account-wagering platform, Twinspires.com, and holds a 50 percent interest in HorseRacing TV, a broadcast competitor to TVG, while Youbet.com is currently the second-largest account-wagering platform, just behind TVG.