04/28/2014 5:13PM

Chuchill Downs, Vegas books lack simulcasting deal

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Churchill Downs and racebooks in Las Vegas have so far failed to reach a simulcasting deal, potentially jeopardizing the ability of the racebooks to offer parimutuel wagering on Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, the most popular race in the United States, according to Nevada gambling officials.

Patty Jones, executive director of the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association, said that the Churchill signal was unavailable in casinos on Saturday night, the opening card of the Churchill spring meet, because of the lack of a deal. Negotiations with Churchill are “ongoing,” said Jones, who represents 82 casino properties in Nevada.

Though Churchill’s parent company represents a number of racetracks across the United States in simulcast negotiations, Jones said that the deal in limbo was limited to races at Churchill Downs in Louisville. In addition to Saturday’s Derby, Churchill also is the home of the Kentucky Oaks, which is run as part of an increasingly popular betting card on Friday.

Contract negotiations between Churchill and simulcast outlets frequently flare up in the weeks leading up to the opening of the spring meet, when Churchill can take a hard line on talks because of the popularity of the Derby. On the other side of the table, Nevada racebooks occupy a unique position, because state law allows them to offer booked bets on horse racing. Booked bets are nowhere near as cost-effective or profitable as parimutuel bets, however, and most casino racebooks embraced the parimutuel system two decades ago.

Several racing officials have said that Churchill’s parent company has been seeking a higher rate for the track’s signal this year, in part because the track raised its takeout rates effective with the opening of the spring meet. Simulcast outlets keep the difference between the rate they pay for the signal and the takeout, so any increase in takeout without an increase in the simulcast rate would provide more revenue to the outlet, and not necessarily to Churchill.

Churchill officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.