04/10/2008 11:00PM

Lone Star signal held from account-wagering sites


Account-wagering sites were unable to take wagers on races from Lone Star Park for its opening card on Thursday night because of a dispute between the track's owner and its horsemen.

The dispute centers on the cut of wagering revenue that horsemen receive from bets placed through account-wagering sites, according to representatives of both sides. As of Friday afternoon, a blackout of the signal from the track on account-wagering sites appeared to be likely for the entire opening weekend, and perhaps beyond.

The sale of Lone Star's simulcast signal is handled by TrackNet Media, a partnership between Churchill Downs and the operator of Lone Star, Magna Entertainment Corp. Scott Daruty, the chief executive of TrackNet, said Friday that horsemen were demanding a 7 percent cut of all wagers through account-wagering operations. He called the demand "unrealistic," citing the horsemen's typical cut of 1.5 percent on out-of-state wagers at bricks-and-mortar betting sites.

"If horsemen want 7 percent of account-wagering revenues, under this new model of theirs, that means we have to sell the signal for 17 or 18 percent," Daruty said. "We've got to be realistic. No one is going to buy a signal for 17 or 18 percent."

Simulcast signals are typically sold at rates ranging from 2 to 8 percent of handle. Receiving sites keep the difference between the rate and the takeout, which is typically 20 percent.

Tommy Azopardi, the executive director of the Texas Horsemen's Partnership, said in a statement that horsemen were seeking 7 percent from account-wagering sites because of the disparity between the rates the group gets for ontrack wagers and the rates horsemen get for account-wagering bets.

"We're very concerned that the current revenue model for account wagering is dysfunctional," Azopardi said in the statement. Azopardi could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Account-wagering is not legal in Texas, but several large sites, including Magna's XpressBet and Churchill's Twinspires.com, have allowed customers in other states to take bets on Lone Star.