08/08/2005 11:00PM

Ohio signal fight continues

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The Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association voted on Tuesday to approve sending the signal from Thistledown racetrack to Magna's XpressBet account-wagering platform, but it was unclear Tuesday whether Magna, the owner of Thistledown, would accept the deal.

The horsemen's approval is part of a larger negotiation over the availability of Ohio's racing signals on account-wagering platforms. The horsemen's group and AmericaTab, an account-wagering operation owned by two Ohio racetracks, Beulah Park and River Downs, have been unable recently to come to terms on a deal that would renew signal rights.

Gus George, the president of the horsemen's group, said on Tuesday that horsemen voted to allow Thistledown on XpressBet based on an offer to expand the source-market fee area from a 25-mile radius outside a racetrack to a 50-mile radius. Account-wagering companies usually pay a special fee to horsemen on any bet made by a customer within the source-market area. George said that Thistledown officials told horsemen they would accept the deal only if River and Beulah did as well.

River and Beulah have not given any indication that they would accept an expansion of the source-market fee area.

Thistledown officials were not immediately available for comment on Tuesday, a dark day at the track.

At stake in the negotiations are hundreds of thousands of dollars in purse and track revenues raised by account wagering in Ohio. In addition, Beulah Park has threatened to push the opening of its 2005 race meet back a month if an agreement is not reached to make the track's signal available on AmericaTab's sites.

Jack Hanessian, the general manager of River Downs, said on Tuesday that he was skeptical that an agreement between the account-wagering companies and horsemen could be reached by a deadline of Aug. 15.

"We're willing to talk at any time, but we've had a lot of differences on these issues," Hanessian said.