10/09/2001 12:00AM

Mid-Atlantic restores Keeneland

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NEW YORK - The Mid-Atlantic Cooperative has reached an agreement with Keeneland that will immediately restore the track's signal at racetracks and simulcasting facilities throughout the eastern seaboard, racing officials said Tuesday.

The Keeneland signal was scheduled to be restored Wednesday, the officials said, the fifth racing day of Keeneland 17-day fall meet, with the signal available throughout the remainder of the meet.

The Mid-Atlantic Cooperative, which represents 10 Thoroughbred tracks, refused to take Keeneland just before the track's meet opened last week, citing its decision to cut its takeout to a low 16 percent. The cooperative complained that the takeout reduction unfairly squeezed profit margins on simulcast signals.

Marty Lieberman, the executive director of the cooperative, said Tuesday that the "parties had agreed to keep the details of the agreement in confidence." The mid-Atlantic tracks had asked Keeneland to reduce the rate at which it sold its signal to the cooperative.

Nick Nicholson, the president of Keeneland, said the "one detail" he could release was that the track "is not going to raise the takeout" because of the agreement.

Thoroughbred tracks in the mid-Atlantic cooperative are Laurel Park, Pimlico Racecourse, Delaware Park, Penn National, Philadelphia Park, Charles Town Races, Colonial Downs, Monmouth Park, The Meadowlands, and Atlantic City Race Course. Seven harness tracks in the region are also members.

The Keeneland signal, however, remains blacked out at OTBs in New York State. Last week, all six New York OTB corporations demanded that Keeneland raise its takeout before the OTBs would offer the track's signal. Keeneland refused.

Since simulcasting sites retain the amount of the takeout left over after paying a sending site, a reduction in takeout reduces their revenues. At Keeneland, the takeout was reduced from an effective rate of 18 percent to 16 percent, meaning simulcast sites were facing a loss of 2 cents on each betting dollar compared with revenues under the previous takeout structure.

The decision of the mid-Atlantic tracks not to take Keeneland was harshly criticized over the weekend by gamblers and some in the media, some of whom called for boycotts of the tracks.