11/05/2007 12:00AM

California accord on account bets

EmailParticipants in the California racing industry have reached an agreement that will make every major racing signal in the state available to the largest domestic account-wagering operations in the country for the next eight months, officials in the state said on Monday.

Beginning with the start of the Hollywood Park meet on Wednesday and running until the start of the Del Mar meet late in July, customers of Television Games Network, Youbet.com, XpressBet, and the family of account-wagering companies owned by Churchill Downs Inc. will be able to bet on races from both the Southern California racing circuit and the Northern California racing circuit through one account. Churchill's companies include twinspires.com, winticket.com, brisbet.com, and tsnbet.com.

Account-wagering customers had previously been prevented from betting on all the tracks through one service because of a failure by account-wagering companies to reach agreements to share content, not just in California, but across the country.

The California Horse Racing Board had pushed the account-wagering companies and racetracks to reach the agreement. Two weeks ago, the racetracks and account-wagering companies said they had signed off on the general terms of a contract, but the deal needed the approval of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, which represents horse owners.

Under the deal, every account-wagering company licensed in California will be able to accept wagers on races from Hollywood Park's fall and spring meets, Golden Gate's winter and spring meets, Santa Anita's winter meet, and the Bay Meadows winter-spring meet. The contract, which also allows the companies to stream live races over the Internet, expires with the close of the Hollywood meet next summer.

The deal, however, will also give the exclusive television broadcasting rights of the Hollywood Park and Bay Meadows signals to TVG, and the exclusive broadcast rights of Santa Anita and Golden Gate to HorseRacing TV, a network owned by Churchill Downs and Magna Entertainment Corp.

Drew Couto, president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, said Monday that the deal was being viewed as an "experiment." He declined to provide financial terms.

"We believe that the broader the distribution, the more the revenue," Couto said. "Everyone plans to evaluate it at the end of the term and see if we need to adjust it further."

Scott Daruty, the chief executive of TrackNet - a partnership between Churchill and Magna that sells signals on behalf of Churchill's account-wagering properties and Magna's XpressBet - said Monday that he hopes the deal will address the criticism of racing fans who have been frustrated by the account-wagering companies' failure to share content.

"The measure of success is how much additional revenue is returned to the track and the horsemen, and the fans' reaction to it," Daruty said.