10/09/2008 11:00PM

Hollywood, TOC agree on contract

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Hollywood Park and the Thoroughbred Owners of California reached an agreement in principle Friday on a horsemen's contract, a wide-ranging document that includes the purse structure for the track's upcoming fall meeting from Oct. 29 through Dec. 21.

The agreement alleviates fears that had circulated among horsemen that the absence of such a contract would result in Hollywood Park not conducting a fall meeting and that racing would shift to Santa Anita in November and December. The agreement was announced at a meeting between trainers, TOC president Drew Couto, and California Horse Racing Board chairman Richard Shapiro on the Hollywood Park backstretch.

"I'm pleased we were able to come to an agreement on a horsemen's agreement, and racing at Hollywood Park will move forward," Shapiro said. "Nobody needs to be concerned that racing will come to a stop."

While the horsemen's contract has largely been resolved, issues pertaining to account wagering through telephone and Internet sources have not and could result in a disruption of account wagering during the fall meeting, officials said Friday.

The TOC, which represents horsemen in the state, has yet to reach an agreement with account wagering companies on a division of revenue on account wagers placed outside of California, Couto said.

Meetings between representatives of account wagering companies and the TOC were expected to take place this weekend. The issue is scheduled to be discussed at Wednesday's racing board meeting.

At stake is how to divide revenue bet through the four account wagering companies authorized to do business in California - TVG, Twinspires, XpressBet, and Youbet.com - and the horsemen. The TOC is seeking a higher rate of return from account wagering handle to offset declines in ontrack and simulcasting business.

Because the account wagering revenue issue has not been resolved, it is unclear how purses at Hollywood Park will be affected this fall. Officials say interstate account wagering comprised 5 percent of handle at the corresponding meeting in 2007.

Couto said that the TOC and Hollywood Park have agreed to resume a program at the fall meeting to allow the four account wagering providers to accept bets from California customers. A similar program was in place from November 2007 until July of this year, but it was not continued for the Del Mar, Fairplex Park, and current Oak Tree at Santa Anita meetings. TVG and Youbet had exclusive contracts with those tracks to provide betting, but the contracts end this year.

"I think we made a lot of progress, and I give Shapiro credit on that," Couto said. "He got everyone in the room. We haven't come to an agreement on interstate [account wagering]. We've resolved all other contract issues. We'll try to work to get interstate wagering worked out. It's still a rates issue."

The dispute over account wagering revenue is similar to those that have occurred in other parts of the country in recent months.

"California is only one spoke in that wheel," Shapiro said. "This is an issue that is taking place nationally as horsemen view they are not getting their equitable share of the interstate wagering dollars. The [account wagering companies] are saying they need a certain amount to exist."