12/22/2008 12:00AM

Florida account-wagering agreement reached


Florida horsemen and the simulcast-marketing company owned by Churchill Downs Inc. and Magna Entertainment Corp. have reached a one-year agreement to restore the signals from Churchill's Calder Race Course and Magna's Gulfstream Park to the account-wagering platforms run by the two companies, officials for both sides said on Monday.

The deal will likely result in Calder being restored to Churchill's Twinspires.com and Magna's XpressBet on Tuesday, according to the officials. Calder closes on Jan. 2, and Gulfstream - one of the most popular winter signals in the U.S. - opens on Jan. 3.

Florida's horsemen have blocked the distribution of Calder's signal to account-wagering companies since the start of Calder's meet in April, citing their dissatisfaction with the distribution of revenues from account wagering. The result has been an eight-month blackout of Calder's signal for Internet and telephone bettors and a significant decline in betting on the track's races.

According to officials for both sides, the marketing company, TrackNet, will be responsible for reaching a similar deal with the two other large national account-wagering companies, TVG and Youbet.com. However, it is unclear if the two companies will accept the deal.

Scott Daruty, the chief executive of TrackNet, said that he had talked with officials for the two companies in the past about similar deals, but had not yet offered the deal to Youbet.com and TVG officials by Monday afternoon.

"I don't know what they'll do," Daruty said. "I think it's a fair deal, so it will be up to them whether they want to accept it."

Sam Gordon, the president of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said that the deal requires account-wagering companies to pay Calder Race Course a 7 percent fee on handle and Gulfstream Park a 9 percent fee on handle. If those numbers are accurate - Daruty would not comment on the figures, as is standard on signal rates - then it will represent a significant fee increase.

However, because Churchill and Magna own the two tracks and the simulcast-marketing partnership, their account-wagering companies will be paying their parent companies for access to the signals. In other words, the deal will be more expensive to TVG and Youbet.com than to Churchill and Magna.

In addition, the deal will restrict the live television broadcasting rights to HorseRacing TV, a channel owned by Churchill and Magna and a competitor to TVG, according to Daruty. All account-wagering platforms, however, will be able to provide live streaming of races over the Internet, Daruty said.

Officials of TVG and Youbet.com did not return phone calls on Monday.