10/19/2007 12:00AM

California expanding offtrack sites

EmailSatellite wagering will be expanded in California to an additional 45 locations, including card clubs and bars, as part of legislation signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger earlier this month.

The additional locations, which are described in the law as "mini-satellites," are designed to make racing more accessible to the public. According to Rod Blonien, a lobbyist who argued on behalf of the bill for racing interests, the new locations will be smaller than existing satellite locations, and will consist largely of self-service wagering machines that will be equipped to sell and cash tickets.

According to the legislation, the California Horse Racing Board has been instructed to adopt regulations and issue licenses for the new satellite locations by April 1, 2008. Blonien said he is hopeful that the locations can be operational by the first of May, in time for the Kentucky Derby.

Currently, satellite wagering is permitted in California at 33 sites, including county fairgrounds, Native American casinos, and racetracks.

The new mini-satellites will not be allowed within 20 miles of an existing racetrack or satellite facility without the consent of that operation, according to the legislation. They must be in an area restricted to people 21 or older.

It is unclear how much handle will be generated by the new locations, but Blonien estimated that tracks could handle an additional $500,000 to $700,000 daily when all the mini-satellites are operational. Blonien said the new legislation is a way to add revenue to purses in the absence of slot machines.

"I don't think we'll get any slot machine money or anything in terms of mitigation" from Native American tribes, he said. "We need a way to grow purses, and hopefully this will help."