11/14/2008 12:00AM

No TVG-Fair Grounds deal yet


Negotiations on a deal that would have allowed Television Games Network to take wagers on races from Fair Grounds in New Orleans failed to produce an agreement on the track's opening day, according to officials involved in the talks.

The negotiations were restarted on Thursday night after the three other national account-wagering companies had already signed a deal to take wagers on Fair Grounds's races. Those deals were reached with TrackNet, a simulcast-marketing partnership co-owned by Churchill Downs Inc., which owns Fair Grounds and one of the counntry's four account-wagering companies, Twinspires.com. The other owner of TrackNet is Magna Entertainment Corp, which owns the XpressBet account-wagering platform. Both platforms directly compete with TVG and a fourth company, Youbet, for customers and racetrack contracts.

Scott Daruty, the president of TrackNet, said late on Friday afternoon that though both sides have expressed a willingness to talk to each other about a deal, no agreement was possible on Friday.

"We're relatively close," Daruty said. "But at this point, it doesn't look like either side is willing to concede the last point. It's a long meet, so maybe we can reach agreement sometime in the future."

Sean Alfortish, the president of the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, had said on Friday morning that the two sides were very close to a deal and that the horsemen had signed off on the agreement. Horsemen have veto power over all simulcasting contracts through a federal law.

Horsemen were attempting to get all four national account-wagering companies to accept an identical agreement, with the exception of the live television rights for the signal. Those rights will be held by HorseRacing TV, also a partnership of Churchill and Magna.

Officials of TVG did not return phone calls on Friday.

On Thursday, David Nathanson, the president of TVG, said that the company was reluctant to reach a "one-size-fits-all" agreement with horsemen, contending that the division of television rights favored one account-wagering platform over another and that economic situations in different states require tailor-made contracts.

Account-wagering in the United States has become a battleground over the past two years as companies and horsemen attempt to obtain control over what is the only growing segment of parimutuel wagering. The disputes have led to widespread signal blackouts on many national account-wagering platforms.

Currently, all national account-wagering platforms are prohibited from taking wagers on the signal from Hollywood Park in California and Churchill Downs in Kentucky because of horsemen's objections to their shares of account-wagering revenue. TVG does not have an agreement to take wagers on Santa Anita Park or Gulfstream Park, two highly popular winter signals. Santa Anita, which opens in late December, and Gulfstream, which opens in early January, are owned by Magna Entertainment.

Aside from the Fair Grounds deal, Alfortish said that TVG has agreed to a contract allowing the company to broadcast and take wagers on races from Delta Downs in Louisiana. That contract will allow both TVG and HorseRacing TV to broadcast the races live, Alfortish said.

"That's a deal that we hope will become standard in this industry," Alfortish said.