09/15/2006 12:00AM

Hawthorne back on Youbet, off TVG


Hawthorne Racecourse and Television Games Network on Friday scrapped an agreement signed earlier this year that made Hawthorne an exclusive partner of the network, freeing up Hawthorne to sign account-wagering agreements with TVG's competitors.

The decision, which was being pushed by the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and TVG's competitors, will allow Hawthorne's races to be carried by Youbet.com, AmericaTab, and XpressBet. However, TVG said that as a result of the decision, the network will no longer carry any of Hawthorne's races or allow its customers to wager on the track.

Hawthorne opened for live racing on Friday, hours after the decision to scrap the agreement was made. On Friday afternoon, the track's races were being shown live on XpressBet's television station, HorseRacingTV, on the Dish satellite network.

Tim Carey, the general manager of Hawthorne, said the decision to void the contract was made mutually between the track and TVG.

"It's not the perfect situation, but the perfect situation would have been with TVG and our other partners," Carey said. "Our hands were tied, unfortunately."

The decision comes two weeks after the Illinois horsemen pulled their approval for TVG to broadcast races from Arlington Park, another Chicago-area racetrack, which is not affiliated with Hawthorne but is an exclusive partner of TVG. The horsemen said they took action in order to protest Hawthorne's decision to sign the exclusive agreement with TVG.

The horsemen had also withheld approval for Hawthorne to provide its signal to TVG.

Justin Cassity, the executive director of the Illinois horsemen's association, said the horsemen's group believed that the revenue generated for purses from new agreements with Youbet, AmericaTab, and XpressBet would "probably be the same, if not better," than if Hawthorne had stayed with TVG.

"We've maintained the proper outlets for our fans to be able to bet the Chicago signal," Cassity said.

TVG's exclusive agreement with Hawthorne required Youbet.com to pay licensing fees to TVG to carry Hawthorne's races. Though Youbet paid those fees during Hawthorne's spring meet, the account-wagering company told the horsemen shortly before the Arlington meet ended that it had no plans to carry Hawthorne in the fall.

Chuck Champion, the chief executive of Youbet, said in an interview last week that it "did not make economic sense" for Youbet to pay the fees to TVG for the Hawthorne signal.