Updated on 09/15/2011 12:43PM

Cal. owners air phone worries

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DEL MAR, Calif. - As the California racing industry anxiously awaits a decision by Gov. Gray Davis on a bill allowing telephone betting, officials with the Thoroughbred Owners of California have expressed concerns that the legislation would lead to lower handle and purses.

Earlier this week, John Van de Kamp, president of the TOC, wrote a one-page letter to Mark Wilson, president of Television Games Network (TVG), echoing comments made at a horsemen's meeting at Del Mar on July 28. TVG operates a phone wagering hub.

At the two-hour meeting, several owners and trainers worried that the convenience of telephone betting would keep customers away from racetracks, resulting in smaller handle from telephone accounts than would be bet ontrack. That could result in a loss of purses.

Van de Kamp said his letter addressed the possible "cannibalization" of ontrack business by telephone betting.

At the July 28 meeting, owner-breeder Marty Wygod urged TOC officials to negotiate an agreement that would result in TVG's reducing its share of telephone betting revenue if ontrack business suffers major declines. The TOC negotiates purse contracts with racetracks and would do the same with companies that provide telephone betting service.

Wilson on Wednesday afternoon said he was preparing a response to Van de Kamp's letter. "I don't think our business model will be anything but a good thing for California racing," he said.

TVG will handle telephone betting for Hollywood Park and Del Mar. Santa Anita had an arrangement with The Racing Network, which ceased operations earlier this week.

The phone betting bill reached the governor's desk earlier this week, but Davis has yet to act on it, according to his press office. Last year, Davis vetoed similar legislation, stating that he did not want an expansion of gambling in the state.

If approved, telephone betting would begin in California next year.