06/29/2006 11:00PM

N.J. solicits bids for out-of-state bets


The owner and operator of Monmouth Park and The Meadowlands is seeking an exclusive partner for its account-wagering business outside of New Jersey, according to officials of the tracks and account-wagering companies.

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, the state agency that runs the two tracks, issued a request for proposals for the out-of-state business on Monday, according to the officials. The request for proposals asks account-wagering companies to submit bids for the exclusive right to broadcast the video signals from the two tracks and take wagers on the races beginning Sept. 1. The bids are due on July 13, and the authority's board is expected to issue a recommendation at its board meeting on July 19, according to Chris McErlean, the vice president of racing operations for the sports and exposition authority.

The request for proposals was sent to "every major account-wagering company" with national broadcasting capabilities, McErlean said. The list includes Television Games Network, Youbet.com, AmericaTab, HorseRacing TV, Philadelphia Park, and New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation.

The authority already operates an account-wagering business, and will continue to take wagers from New Jersey residents through its existing operation, McErlean said. The signals from Monmouth and The Meadowlands are currently offered on every major national account-wagering operation with the exception of TVG.

McErlean said that approximately $150 million was bet in 2005 through national account-wagering services on the Monmouth and Meadowlands signals.

Officials from account-wagering companies who could be reached on Friday declined to speak about specifics of the request for proposals, citing the need to keep details of their bids confidential.

"About all I can say is that we'll turn in an application and give it our best shot," said Mike Weiss, the general manager of Beulah Park, which is a part-owner in AmericaTab.

The decision to seek an exclusive operator outside of New Jersey has echoes of an arrangement reached between the New York Racing Association and Television Games Network two years ago. Under that deal, TVG paid a multimillion-dollar upfront fee for the exclusive right to carry the signals from NYRA's three tracks: Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga. TVG has in turn licensed the NYRA signals to competing companies.

McErlean said that the request for proposals does not detail how bidders should structure their business proposal.

"It could be an upfront fee, it could be a percentage of handle, it could be a combination of both," McErlean said. "It's up to the bidders to decide how they want to structure the proposal."

According to an official with knowledge of the authority's decision, the authority issued the request for proposals for the out-of-state business in part to shield the authority from any questions surrounding the legality of taking bets over the Internet in other states. Thirteen states have laws explicitly allowing telephone and Internet betting, but most account-wagering companies take bets from customers in more than 30 states, despite the murkiness of the legality of the practice.

McErlean would not comment on the decision other than to say that the authority's board was interested in testing the market.