05/30/2002 11:00PM

Handle shift in California

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Internet wagering handle in California has undergone a dramatic reversal with the close of the Santa Anita Park meet on April 21.

In the five weeks before Santa Anita's close, XpressBet handled approximately $1.7 million a week, according to figures provided by the California Horse Racing Board on Friday. At the same time, handle through Television Games Network hovered near $500,000.

But since the closing of Santa Anita and the start of the Hollywood Park meet Apr. 24, the handle figures have gone from being 3-1 in favor of XpressBet to 4-1 in favor of TVG. In the week ending May 26, handle through TVG by California subscribers was $2 million, while handle through XpressBet was $553,000.

XpressBet is owned by Magna Entertainment, the owner of Santa Anita Park, Golden Gate Fields, and Bay Meadows Race Course, while TVG, which is owned by Gemstar-TV Guide International, is supported by Hollywood Park, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, and Oak Tree at Santa Anita.

The two companies failed to reach an agreement this year that would allow subscribers to wager on each other's races, and the result has been that each service dominates a part of the California racing calendar: XpressBet in the winter, and TVG for the rest of the year.

Youbet.com, another account-wagering service, had handle for the week ended May 26 of $2.18 million, according to the figures. Youbet has agreements to take bets on both TVG tracks and Magna tracks, but most of the service's revenue from handle on TVG races goes to TVG.

TVG, available in parts of Los Angeles on digital cable, has been shown for two hours every day on Fox Sports Southwest. Mark Wilson, TVG's chief executive officer, said the coverage has led to a doubling of California wagering through TVG and Youbet.