11/08/2008 1:00AM

Churchill cuts purses 10 percent


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Citing soft business levels stemming from a struggling economy and unresolved negotiations with horsemen over distribution of the Churchill Downs simulcast signal to most account wagering outlets, Churchill Downs announced Friday evening a 10 percent cut in overnight purses for its fall meet and two stakes purse reductions.

The affected stakes are the Grade 2 Clark Handicap Nov. 28, and the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap Nov. 27. The Clark Handicap purse will be cut by $100,000 to $400,000, and the Falls City purse by $50,000 to $150,000.

The reductions to overnight purses are effective Wednesday.

The cut in the Falls City purse is the second reduction of the year for the race, following a summer announcement that it would be dropped from $300,000 to $200,000, when $975,000 in stakes purses was slashed for the entire fall meet. That cut came a few months after overnight purses for the spring meet had been reduced 20 percent.

The Clark's purse had been unaffected by the summer stakes purse cut.

The Churchill Downs simulcast signal has been blocked from account wagering outlets since the beginning of the Churchill Downs spring meet - which ran from April 26 to July 6 - because horsemen and the track have been unable to reach an agreement regarding revenue sharing from account wagering. The blocked outlets include Twinspires.com, Xpressbet, TVG, and Youbet.

Horsemen continue to seek a higher percentage of handle from account wagering for purses, something Churchill Downs has said would make its wagering platform, Twinspires.com, unprofitable.

"The soft economy has led to a decline of wagering dollars industry-wide and resulted in purse reductions at tracks across the country," said Churchill Downs Incorporated senior vice president Kevin Flanery in a statement. "The inability to distribute simulcast signals to national [acount wagering] platforms has placed additional pressure on purses at Churchill Downs. "

Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association president Rick Hiles said the account wagering dispute with Churchill Downs had "very little" effect on the downturn in business, pointing to the recently concluded Keeneland meet as an example. Keeneland had account wagering on its fall meet with TVG, and betting was down nearly 8 percent ontrack and declined over 17 percent from all-sources betting.

Horsemen and the track continue to meet to resolve the account-wagering dispute. "We're pretty close but not there yet," Hiles said.

In keeping with company policy, Churchill Downs did not reveal its handle or attendance numbers for the meet.