01/01/2009 12:00AM

Churchill reaches account-wagering deal


Churchill Downs Inc. and Kentucky horsemen jointly announced late Wednesday that an agreement has been reached in the months-long impasse over account-wagering revenue splits, which led to the simulcast signal being withheld and betting suspended on all major account-wagering networks for both 2008 meets at Churchill Downs.

The agreement will apply only to the 2009 spring meet, which runs April 25 to July 5. The Churchill races will be available on the four major account-wagering sites: TVG, Youbet, XpressBet, and the Churchill-owned Twinspires.

"We are pleased to have reached a mutually acceptable resolution with Kentucky horsemen on this issue," Churchill president Steve Sexton said in a media release. "The real winners today are our customers."

The account-wagering issue had been a source of major frustration for thousands of online horseplayers, as well as Churchill management and horsemen. As business slumped, due partly to the lost revenue stream from account wagering, purses for overnight races and stakes were slashed at Churchill in 2008.

Rick Hiles, president of the Kentucky division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said Thursday that the agreement essentially meets the demands of horsemen. Lacking an agreement when the 2008 spring meet began last April, horsemen had held out for revenue splits that basically give one-third apiece to Churchill, horsemen, and the account-wagering service provider.

"I'm pretty sure it's a good deal for us, maybe a great deal," said Hiles. "We all want to be sure about it, though. That's why we'll just do it for one meet before it's reevaluated."

The Churchill agreement marks the latest in a string of account-wagering settlements in the North American racing industry. Two other tracks owned by Churchill Downs Inc. that had their signals withheld from account-wagering sites, Calder in Florida and Fair Grounds in Louisiana, recently reached agreements with horsemen over revenue splits.