01/04/2009 12:00AM

Dispute could cut signals in Vegas books

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ARCADIA, Calif. - A dispute over the distribution of revenue between Nevada casinos and tracks owned by Churchill Downs and Magna Entertainment threatens to disrupt betting in casino racebooks later this week.

The current contract ends on Wednesday, and a meeting between racing and casino executives is scheduled for Wednesday in Las Vegas in an effort to reach a resolution. The absence of an agreement could lead to a blackout as early as Thursday, Santa Anita president Ron Charles said.

Track officials are seeking a higher percentage of bets to be dedicated to racetracks and horsemen, in the form of purses.

"We are going to sit down and see if we can find a compromise in regards to some increase in the distribution back to the tracks," Charles said of Wednesday's meeting. "The whole purpose of the meeting is to try and reach a compromise."

Charles acknowledged that a blackout of some racetrack signals into Nevada would punish bettors. Currently, Magna-owned tracks Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, and Santa Anita and Churchill-owned Fair Grounds simulcast into Nevada casinos. A disruption could be particularly difficult on Santa Anita because of its proximity to Las Vegas and the familiarity that many racebook customers have with the racetrack.

"From an overall state of the industry, this is not a good time to be going down," Charles said. "I think it would have an impact. With Nevada suffering through a rough period and horse racing kind of following suit, I'm not sure this is the best time to be alienating our fans."