08/21/2007 12:00AM

Oregon hub's handle down for first time


Betting on Thoroughbred races through the account-wagering companies that have hubs in Oregon declined for the first time on a quarter-to-quarter basis in the second quarter of 2007, according to figures supplied by the Oregon Racing Commission and one of the account-wagering companies.

The decline, 2.2 percent, was minor, but account-wagering handle had been increasing steadily since the Oregon Racing Commission began tracking account-wagering statistics in 2000. According to the figures, handle for the six companies was $434.2 million in the second quarter of 2007, compared to $442 million for five companies in the second quarter of 2006.

Racing officials are closely monitoring the account-wagering market because of a split earlier this year between the major account-wagering companies that has resulted in many racetracks' signals being pulled from competing operations. Account wagering has been the only growing segment of the parimutuel market for several years.

The split has frustrated many horseplayers who had grown accustomed to using one account-wagering operation to place bets on nearly any racetrack in the country.

Two of the six companies saw handle decline for the quarter. International Racing Group, an offshore rebate shop that has sent its bets through an Oregon hub ever since it was purchased by Youbet.com in the fourth quarter of 2005, had the largest drop, with handle declining from $91.9 million in the second quarter of 2006 to $58.3 million in the same period in 2007, according to the figures. AmericaTab, a collection of account-wagering sites, had $62.3 million in handle in 2007 compared to $65.9 million in 2006.

The Oregon Racing Commission figures for 2006 do not include all of the handle through Youbet.com because the company last year also sent wagers through a California hub. Hud Englehart, a spokesman for Youbet.com, said that accurate handle figures for the company's domestic business could be found in its quarterly earnings report.

According to the company's earnings report, Youbet.com's handle rose from $125.2 million in the second quarter of 2006 to $130.2 million in 2007. Handle through XpressBet, which is owned by Magna Entertainment, rose from $40.5 million in 2006 to $54.2 million in 2007, Youbet.com reported. Handle through Twinspires.com, a company launched by Churchill Downs Inc. about four weeks prior to the end of the second quarter this year, was $6.3 million, according to the figures.

Because of the split, which occurred in April, every major account-wagering operation's product lineup was juggled, in some cases dramatically.

* XpressBet gained signals that were controlled by Churchill Downs Inc.

* The AmericaTab sites, which were purchased by Churchill in June, lost the signals controlled by TVG.

* TVG, which has never reached an agreement with Magna for signals that the company controls, lost the signals that were still controlled by Churchill Downs.

* Youbet.com and IRG lost the rights to signals that were still controlled by both Churchill and Magna.